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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 Comédie Française.
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.

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