Anatole France

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Anatole France
Anatole France young years.jpg
BornFrançois-Anatole Thibault
(1844-04-16)16 April 1844
Paris, Kingdom of France
Died12 October 1924(1924-10-12) (aged 80)
Tours, French Third Republic
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Literature
Signature Signature Anatole France.gif

Anatole France (French:  [anatɔl fʁɑ̃s] ; born François-Anatole Thibault, [frɑ̃swa anatɔl tibo] ; 16 April 1844 – 12 October 1924) was a French poet, journalist, and novelist with several best-sellers. Ironic and skeptical, he was considered in his day the ideal French man of letters. He was a member of the Académie française, and won the 1921 Nobel Prize in Literature "in recognition of his brilliant literary achievements, characterized as they are by a nobility of style, a profound human sympathy, grace, and a true Gallic temperament". [1]


France is also widely believed to be the model for narrator Marcel's literary idol Bergotte in Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time . [2]

Early years

The son of a bookseller, France, a bibliophile, [3] spent most of his life around books. His father's bookstore specialized in books and papers on the French Revolution and was frequented by many writers and scholars. France studied at the Collège Stanislas, a private Catholic school, and after graduation he helped his father by working in his bookstore. After several years, he secured the position of cataloguer at Bacheline-Deflorenne and at Lemerre. In 1876 he was appointed librarian for the French Senate.

Literary career

France began his literary career as a poet and a journalist. In 1869, Le Parnasse Contemporain published one of his poems, "La Part de Madeleine". In 1875, he sat on the committee in charge of the third Parnasse Contemporain compilation. As a journalist, from 1867, he wrote many articles and notices. He became known with the novel Le Crime de Sylvestre Bonnard (1881). Its protagonist, skeptical old scholar Sylvester Bonnard, embodied France's own personality. The novel was praised for its elegant prose and won him a prize from the Académie française.

France's home, 5 villa Said
, 1894-1924 Anatole France house, Villa Said.jpg
France's home, 5 villa Saïd, 1894–1924

In La Rotisserie de la Reine Pedauque (1893) France ridiculed belief in the occult; and in Les Opinions de Jérôme Coignard (1893), France captured the atmosphere of the fin de siècle . He was elected to the Académie française in 1896.

France took a part in the Dreyfus affair. He signed Émile Zola's manifesto supporting Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish army officer who had been falsely convicted of espionage. France wrote about the affair in his 1901 novel Monsieur Bergeret.

France's later works include L'Île des Pingouins (Penguin Island, 1908) which satirizes human nature by depicting the transformation of penguins into humans – after the birds have been baptized by mistake by the almost-blind Abbot Mael. It is a satirical history of France, starting in Medieval times, going on to the author's own time with special attention to the Dreyfus affair and concluding with a dystopian future. Les dieux ont soif (The Gods Are Athirst, 1912) is a novel, set in Paris during the French Revolution, about a true-believing follower of Maximilien Robespierre and his contribution to the bloody events of the Reign of Terror of 1793–94. It is a wake-up call against political and ideological fanaticism and explores various other philosophical approaches to the events of the time. La Revolte des Anges (Revolt of the Angels, 1914) is often considered Anatole France's most profound and ironic novel. Loosely based on the Christian understanding of the War in Heaven, it tells the story of Arcade, the guardian angel of Maurice d'Esparvieu. Bored because Bishop d'Esparvieu is sinless, Arcade begins reading the bishop's books on theology and becomes an atheist. He moves to Paris, meets a woman, falls in love, and loses his virginity causing his wings to fall off, joins the revolutionary movement of fallen angels, and meets the Devil, who realizes that if he overthrew God, he would become just like God. Arcade realizes that replacing God with another is meaningless unless "in ourselves and in ourselves alone we attack and destroy Ialdabaoth." "Ialdabaoth", according to France, is God's secret name and means "the child who wanders".

France c. 1921 Anatole France 1921.jpg
France c. 1921

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1921. He died in 1924 and is buried in the Neuilly-sur-Seine community cemetery near Paris.

On 31 May 1922, France's entire works were put on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (Prohibited Books Index) of the Catholic Church. [4] He regarded this as a "distinction". [5] This Index was abolished in 1966.

Personal life

In 1877, France married Valérie Guérin de Sauville, a granddaughter of Jean-Urbain Guérin, a miniaturist who painted Louis XVI. [6] Their daughter Suzanne was born in 1881 (and died in 1918).

France's relations with women were always turbulent, and in 1888 he began a relationship with Madame Arman de Caillavet, who conducted a celebrated literary salon of the Third Republic. The affair lasted until shortly before her death in 1910. [6]

After his divorce, in 1893, France had many liaisons, notably with a Madame Gagey, who committed suicide in 1911. [7]

In 1920, France married for the second time, to Emma Laprévotte. [8]

France was a socialist and an outspoken supporter of the 1917 Russian Revolution. In 1920, he gave his support to the newly founded French Communist Party. [9]


The English writer George Orwell defended France and declared that his work remained very readable, and that "it is unquestionable that he was attacked partly from political motives". [10]



France pictured by Jean Baptiste Guth for Vanity Fair, 1909 Anatole France, Vanity Fair, 1909-08-11.jpg
France pictured by Jean Baptiste Guth for Vanity Fair , 1909
Nos Enfants, illustrations by Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel (1900) Anatole France - Nos enfants.pdf
Nos Enfants, illustrations by Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel (1900)

Prose fiction



Historical biography

Literary criticism

Social criticism

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  1. "The Nobel Prize in Literature 1921".
  2. "Marcel Proust: A Life, by Edmund White". 12 July 2010.
  3. "Anatole France". benonsensical. 24 July 2010. Archived from the original on 13 November 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  4. Halsall, Paul (May 1998). "Modern History Sourcebook: Index librorum prohibitorum, 1557–1966 (Index of Prohibited Books)". Internet History Sourcebooks Project (Fordham University).
  5. Current Opinion, September 1922, p. 295.
  6. 1 2 Édouard Leduc (2004). Anatole France avant l'oubli. Éditions Publibook. pp. 219, 222–. ISBN   978-2-7483-0397-1.
  7. Leduc, Edouard (2006). Anatole France avant l'oubli (in French). Editions Publibook. p. 223. ISBN   9782748303971.
  8. Lahy-Hollebecque, M. (1924). Anatole France et la femme. Baudinière, 1924, 252 pp
  9. "Anatole France". The Free Dictionary.
  10. Harrison, Bernard (29 December 2014). What Is Fiction For?: Literary Humanism Restored. Indiana University Press. ISBN   9780253014122.