Julien Green was born of American parents in Paris on September 6, 1900. His father was from Virginia, his mother originally from Georgia; at the time his father’s business had taken the family to Paris. Although Julien attended French schools and learned to speak French fluently, he was required at home to learn English thoroughly. His mother, who was an Episcopalian, also held daily Bible readings with her family. Thus Green was early affected by the awe and mystery of religion, as well as by its significance to him. In 1915, after his mother’s death, he converted to Roman Catholicism, only to enter a period of apostasy later on. His journals, however, record with deep feeling and humility the account of his return to faith in 1939.
During World War I, he was at first too young to join the army and served in the American Field Service, in which he saw service at the front in both France and Italy. In 1918, he was able to join the French artillery. After the war, an uncle in the United States persuaded Green to pursue his studies at the University of Virginia. While he was there, the university literary magazine published a short piece of his called “The Apprentice Psychiatrist,” an early work holding promise of his later novels. After three years, however, Green became homesick for France and returned without having completed his course of study.
After a brief period of art studies, Green determined to write for his career. His first novel, Avarice House, was favorably received in France and the United States. The story, which is set in Virginia, concerns a niggardly and cruel...
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