François Mauriac was born in Bordeaux, France, on October 11, 1885, the son of a well-to-do family. He grew up in Bordeaux and Les Landes, a sparsely populated pine-forested region south of the city, which would later become the settings of most of his fiction and drama.
As a young man, he abandoned his university studies in Paris to become a poet, but he soon turned to writing fiction. In the late 1920’s, Mauriac experienced a religious crisis that eventually resulted in his renewed Roman Catholic convictions, which generally inform the body of his work but are especially crucial after 1930. Indeed, Mauriac is often referred to as a Catholic writer of Catholic literature, although he did not always welcome that categorization, preferring, like Georges Bernanos and the American Flannery O’Connor, to be known as a writer who was also Catholic. In the 1920’s and 1930’s, Mauriac published his best novels, although some critics have argued that his later novels do not receive the popular respect and admiration due them.
In the 1930’s, Georges Bourdet, administrator of the state-subsidized Comédie Française, persuaded Mauriac to write for the theater. Having a play performed at the Comédie Française constitutes a peak in a playwright’s career, just as it is a great honor for an actor to perform there. Mauriac eventually wrote four plays, all of which were produced in prominent Paris theaters. Asmodée was his most successful play, but after Le Feu sur la terre, he lost interest in the theater. Indeed, by 1960, he had written to a friend that he no longer felt any affinity with the theater and even avoided attending theatrical productions. However, he continued to write other works, primarily memoirs, until his death in 1970.