Gracq in 1951
27 July 1910|
Saint-Florent-le-Vieil, Maine-et-Loire, France
|Died||22 December 2007
|Occupation||Novelist, critic, playwright, poet|
|French literary history|
Julien Gracq (French: [gʁak]; 27 July 1910 – 22 December 2007), born Louis Poirier in Saint-Florent-le-Vieil, in the French département of Maine-et-Loire, was a French writer. He wrote novels, critiques, a play, and poetry. His literary works were noted for their dreamlike abstraction, elegant style and refined vocabulary. He was close to the surrealist movement, in particular its leader André Breton.
Gracq first studied in Paris at the Lycée Henri IV, where he earned his baccalauréat. He then entered the École Normale Supérieure in 1930, later studying at the École libre des sciences politiques (Sciences Po.)
During the Second World War, he was a prisoner of war in Silesia with other officers of the French Army. One of the friendships he formed there was with author and literary critic Armand Hoog.
In 1950, he published a fierce attack on contemporary literary culture and literary prizes in the review Empédocle titled La Littérature à l'estomac. When he won the Prix Goncourt for The Opposing Shore (Le Rivage des Syrtes) the following year, he remained consistent with his criticism and refused the prize.
Gracq taught history and geography in secondary school (high school) until he retired in 1970.
In 1979, he wrote the foreword to a re-edition of the Journal de l'analogiste (1954) by Suzanne Lilar, a work he called a "sumptuous initiation to poetry" ("une initiation somptueuse à la poésie").
Gracq lived a quiet life in his native town of Saint-Florent-le-Vieil, on the banks of the Loire River. On 22 December 2007, a couple of days after suffering a dizzy spell, he died at the age of 97 in a hospital in Angers.
The Opposing Shore
The Opposing Shore (Le Rivage des Syrtes - 1951) is Julien Gracq's most famous novel.
A novel of waiting, it is set in an old fortress close to a sea which defines the ancestral border between the stagnant principality of Orsenna and the territory of its archenemy, the mysterious Farghestan. Its lonely characters are caught in a no man's land, waiting for something to happen and wondering whether something should be done to bring about change, particularly when change may mean the death of civilisations.
- Au château d’Argol, 1938 (novel) (English translation: The Castle of Argol)
- Un beau ténébreux, 1945 (novel) (English translation: A Dark Stranger)
- Liberté grande, 1947 (poetry)
- Le Roi pêcheur, 1948 (play)
- André Breton, quelques aspects de l’écrivain, 1948 (critique)
- La Littérature à l'estomac, 1949
- Le Rivage des Syrtes, 1951 (novel) (English translation: The Opposing Shore)
- Prose pour l’Etrangère, 1952
- Penthésilée, 1954 (play; translation of Kleist's Penthesilea)
- Un balcon en forêt, 1958 (novel) (English translation: A Balcony in the Forest)
- Préférences, 1961
- Lettrines, 1967
- La Presqu’île, 1970
- Le Roi Cophetua, 1970 (novel) (English translation: King Cophetua); it inspired the film Rendezvous at Bray, directed by André Delvaux
- Lettrines II, 1974
- Les Eaux Etroites, 1976 (Allusions, allegories and metaphors on a French river, l'Èvre.) (English title: The Narrow Waters)
- En lisant en écrivant, 1980 (English translation: Reading Writing)
- La Forme d’une ville, 1985 (English translation: The Shape of a City)
- Autour des sept collines, 1988
- Carnets du grand chemin, 1992
- Entretiens, 2002
- Le Monde's 100 Books of the Century, a list which includes The Opposing Shore
- "Julien Gracq, 97, Iconoclastic French Surrealist Writer". The New York Times. 24 December 2007.
- Jean-Louis de Rambures, "Comment travaillent les écrivains", Paris 1978 (interview with J. Gracq)
- Encounters with Julien Gracq", by Gérard Bertrand
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