François Mauriac (1885-1970)
French novelist, essayist, poet, playwright, journalist, winner of the Nobel
Prize for Literature in 1952. Mauriac belonged to the long tradition of French
Roman Catholic writers, who examined the problems of good and evil in human
nature and in the world.
François Mauriac was born in Bordeaux. His mother was a devout Catholic who was
influenced by Jansenist thought. From the age of seven, Mauriac attended a
school run by the Marianite Order. The author never ceased to acknowledge the
importance of his early education although he was unhappy at Ste Marie.
After studies at the University of Bordeaux, Mauriac received his licence (the
equivalent of an M.A.) in 1905. Next year he went to Paris to prepare for
entrance in the École des Chartes, where he was accepted in 1908. However,
Mauriac remained at the school only a few months and then decided to devote
himself entirely to literature. His first volume of poems, "Les mains jointes",
appeared in 1909.
Mauriac's work show influence from several writers. He published studies on
Racine and Marcel Proust, but Pascal was perhaps the most important thinker for
him. Mauriac's style was poetic, full of suggestion.
During WW I Mauriac served in the Balkans as a Red Cross hospital orderly. After
the war he wrote two novels, but it was "Le baiser au lépreux" (1922, The Kiss
to the Leper), that became a huge success. The following novels were condemned
by Catholic right wing. The Kiss to the Leper was a story of a wealthy but
hideously ugly young man who is destroyed by an arranged marriage with a
beautiful peasant girl.
In 1933 Mauriac was elected to the Académie Française. He began writing for the
French newspaper Le Figaro and often attacked the rising Fascism. In the late
1930s Mauriac started to write plays. However, they never achieved the success
of his novels, although ASMODÉE was performed 100 times in 1937-1938 at the
During German occupation of France in World War II, Mauriac wrote a protest
against German tyranny and was forced to hide for some time. In the 1950s he
became a supporter of de Gaulle and his anticolonial policies in Morocco. He
wrote for Algerian independence, condemned the use of torture by the French army
in Algeria, and allied with Catholics on the left. From the mid-1950s Mauriac
wrote a weekly newspaper column, Bloc-Notes, which gained a large audience. He
also published a series of personal memoirs and a biography of de Gaulle.
Mauriac died on September 1, 1970, in Paris.