Léon Bloy

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Léon Bloy
Leon Bloy 1887.jpg
Bloy in 1887
Born(1846-07-11)11 July 1846
Notre-Dame-de-Sanilhac, France
Died(1917-11-03)3 November 1917
Bourg-la-Reine, France
  • Novelist
  • essayist
  • poet

Léon Bloy (1846–1917) was a French novelist, essayist, pamphleteer, and poet.



Bloy was born on 11 July 1846 in Notre-Dame-de-Sanilhac, in the arondissement of Périgueux, Dordogne. He was the second of six sons of the Voltairean freethinker and stern disciplinarian Jean-Baptiste Bloy and his wife Anne-Marie Carreau, pious Spanish-Catholic daughter of a Napoleonic soldier. [1] After an agnostic and unhappy youth [2] in which he cultivated an intense hatred for the Roman Catholic Church and its teaching, [1] his father found him a job in Paris, where he went in 1864. In December 1868, he met the ageing Catholic author Barbey d'Aurevilly, who lived opposite him in rue Rousselet and who became his mentor. Shortly afterwards, he underwent a dramatic religious conversion.

Notre-Dame-de-Sanilhac Part of Sanilhac in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Notre-Dame-de-Sanilhac is a former commune in the Dordogne department in Nouvelle-Aquitaine in southwestern France. On 1 January 2017, it was merged into the new commune Sanilhac.

Périgueux Prefecture and commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Périgueux is a commune in the Dordogne department in Nouvelle-Aquitaine in southwestern France.

Dordogne Department of France in Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Dordogne is a department in Southwestern France, with its prefecture in Périgueux. The department is located in the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine between the Loire Valley and the Pyrenees and is named after the river Dordogne that runs through it. It corresponds roughly with the ancient county of Périgord. It had a population of 416,909 in 2013.

Bloy was a friend of the author Joris-Karl Huysmans, the painter Georges Rouault, and the philosophers Jacques and Raïssa Maritain [3] and was instrumental in reconciling these intellectuals with Roman Catholicism. However, he acquired a reputation for bigotry because of his frequent outbursts of temper. For example, in 1885, after the death of Victor Hugo, whom Bloy believed to be an atheist, Bloy decried Hugo's "senility", "avarice", and "hypocrisy". [4] Bloy's first novel, Le Désespéré, a fierce attack on rationalism and those he believed to be in league with it, made him fall out with the literary community of his time and even many of his old friends. Soon, Bloy could count such prestigious authors as Émile Zola, Guy de Maupassant, Ernest Renan, Alphonse Daudet, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Paul Bourget, and Anatole France as his enemies. [3]

Joris-Karl Huysmans French novelist and art critic

Charles-Marie-Georges Huysmans was a French novelist and art critic who published his works as Joris-Karl Huysmans. He is most famous for the novel À rebours. He supported himself by a 30-year career in the French civil service.

Georges Rouault French painter

Georges Henri Rouault was a French painter, draughtsman, and printer, whose work is often associated with Fauvism and Expressionism.

Jacques Maritain French philosopher

Jacques Maritain was a French Catholic philosopher. Raised Protestant, he was agnostic before converting to Catholicism in 1906. An author of more than 60 books, he helped to revive Thomas Aquinas for modern times, and was influential in the development and drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Pope Paul VI presented his "Message to Men of Thought and of Science" at the close of Vatican II to Maritain, his long-time friend and mentor. The same pope had seriously considered making him a lay Cardinal, but Maritain rejected it. Maritain's interest and works spanned many aspects of philosophy, including aesthetics, political theory, philosophy of science, metaphysics, the nature of education, liturgy and ecclesiology.

In addition to his published works, he left a large body of correspondence with public and literary figures. He died on 3 November 1917 in Bourg-la-Reine.

Bourg-la-Reine Commune in Île-de-France, France

Bourg-la-Reine is a commune in the southern suburbs of Paris, France. It is located 9.1 km (5.7 mi) from the center of Paris. The inhabitants are called Réginaburgiens.


Bloy was noted for personal attacks, but he saw them as the mercy or indignation of God. According to Jacques Maritain, he used to say: "My anger is the effervescence of my pity." [5]

Among the many targets of Bloy's attacks were people of business. In an essay in Pilgrim of the Absolute, he compared the businessmen of Chicago unfavourably to the cultured people of Paris:

Chicago City in Illinois, United States

Chicago, officially the City of Chicago, is the most populous city in Illinois, as well as the third most populous city in the United States. With an estimated population of 2,716,450 (2017), it is the most populous city in the Midwest. Chicago is the principal city of the Chicago metropolitan area, often referred to as Chicagoland, and the county seat of Cook County, the second most populous county in the United States. The metropolitan area, at nearly 10 million people, is the third-largest in the United States, and the fourth largest in North America and the third largest metropolitan area in the world by land area.

"In Paris you have the Saint Chapelle and the Louvre, true enough, but we in Chicago kill eighty thousand hogs a day!..." The man who says that is in truth a business man.

Louvre Art museum and Historic site in Paris, France

The Louvre, or the Louvre Museum, is the world's largest art museum and a historic monument in Paris, France. A central landmark of the city, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the city's 1st arrondissement. Approximately 38,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 72,735 square metres. In 2018, the Louvre was the world's most visited art museum, receiving 10.2 million visitors.

Léon Bloy, "Les Affaires Sont Les Affaires" ("Business Is Business") in "The Wisdom of the Bourgeois", part of Pilgrim of the Absolute. [6]

Our Lady of La Salette

Inspired by both the millennialist visionary Eugène Vintras  [ fr ; ru ] and the reports of an apparition at La Salette—Our Lady of La Salette—Bloy was convinced that the Virgin's message was that if people did not reform, the end time was imminent. [7] He was particularly critical of the attention paid to the shrine at Lourdes and resented the fact that it distracted people from what he saw as the less sentimental message of La Salette. [8]


Bloy is quoted in the epigraph at the beginning of Graham Greene's novel The End of the Affair and in the essay "The Mirror of Enigmas" by the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, who acknowledged his debt to him by naming him in the foreword to his short story collection "Artifices" as one of seven authors who were in "the heterogeneous list of the writers I am continually re-reading". In his novel The Harp and the Shadow, Alejo Carpentier excoriates Bloy as a raving, Columbus-defending lunatic during Vatican deliberations over the explorer's canonization. Bloy is also quoted at the beginning of John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany , and there are several quotations from his Letters to my Fiancée in Charles Williams's anthology The New Christian Year. [9] Le Désespéré was republished in 2005 by Éditions Underbahn with a preface by Maurice G. Dantec.[ citation needed ] In Chile historian Jaime Eyzaguirre came to be influenced by Bloy's writings. [10]

According to the historian John Connelly, Bloy's Le Salut par les Juifs, with its apocalyptically radical interpretation of chapters 9 to 11 of Paul's Letter to the Romans, had a major influence on the Catholic theologians of the Second Vatican Council responsible for section 4 of the council's declaration Nostra aetate , the doctrinal basis for a revolutionary change in the Catholic Church's attitude to Judaism. [11]

In 2013, Pope Francis surprised many by quoting Bloy during his first homily as pope. [3]

Bloy and his effect on 21st-century French scholars make a significant appearance in Michel Houellebecq's 2015 novel Submission .




Short stories


A study in English is Léon Bloy by Rayner Heppenstall (Cambridge: Bowes & Bowes, 1953).


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  1. 1 2 Alter-Gilbert, Gilbert (9 December 2008). "Léon Bloy: Pilgrim of the Absolute".
  2. Sheed, F.J. (1940). Sidelights on the Catholic Revival. New York: Sheed and Ward. p. 181.
  3. 1 2 3 Bermudez, Alejandro (15 March 2013). "A Pope Who Quotes Bloy". Catholic News Agency . Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  4. Robb, Graham (1997). Victor Hugo. London: Picador. p. 533. ISBN   9780393318999.
  5. Bloy 1947, pp. 11, 13.
  6. Bloy 1947, p. 132.
  7. Ziegler, Robert (October 2013). "The Palimpsest of Suffering: Léon Bloy's Le Désespéré". Neophilologus . 97 (4): 653–662. doi:10.1007/s11061-012-9337-x.
  8. Kaufmann, Suzanne K. (2005). Consuming Visions: Mass Culture and the Lourdes Shrine. Cornell University Press. p. 86. ISBN   9780801442483.
  9. "Quotations from Léon Bloy in "Charles Williams: The New Christian Year"". 1 November 2007. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  10. "Jaime Eyzaguirre (1908–1968)". Memoria Chilena (in Spanish). Biblioteca Nacional de Chile . Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  11. Connelly, John (2012). From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews, 1933–1965. Harvard University Press.
  12. "Sur la Tombe de Huysmans" is available via Bibliothèque nationale de France.
  13. Auden, W.H.; Kronenberger, Louis (1966). The Viking Book of Aphorisms. New York: Viking Press.