Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Ambricourt. (ahm-breh-kohrt). French parish located on a hillside whose priest sees its miserable little insignificant houses huddled together as a symptom of Christianity in decay. Like the village, the lives of its people seem consumed by boredom. He unfavorably contrasts the place where he will live out his vocation with a Carthusian cloister, where monks create an island of order in the midst of a sea of chaos. His parish is poor, but its poverty is not evangelical, unlike the poverty of Jesus Christ, and the few wealthy parishioners conceal their greed beneath a facade of false humanism, and so their wealth never manifests its full cruelty.

Parish church

Parish church. Like the village, the parish church and the priest’s lodging are coarse and poor. He needs to pay a boy to fetch water for him since he has no well, and his food consists mainly of bread and inferior wine. The church, with its broken windowpanes, is where the priest says mass and encounters the broken lives of his parishioners. The church school, where he catechizes the parish’s children, becomes another place of alienation since his young charges are either bored or cruel. Despite his sufferings in dealing with all his parishioners, he sees his parish as part of the everlasting presence of Christ in the world. Like all human communities, Ambricourt is caught in the great spiritual river sweeping all souls into the deep ocean of eternity.


Château. Estate of a count and countess where the central struggle of the novel...

(The entire section is 652 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Sources for Further Study

Blumenthal, Gerda. The Poetic Imagination of Georges Bernanos: An Essay in Interpretation. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1965. An analysis of the poetic imagination at work in the novel. Associates this poetic vision with Bernanos’ mystical explication of human behavior.

Brée, Germaine, and Margaret Guiton. “Private Worlds.” In An Age of Fiction: The French Novel from Gide to Camus. Rutgers, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1957. Interprets the country priest as a figure tormented by private and public incompatibilities. His diary is therefore a reflection of what the priest cannot, perhaps dares not, communicate to his parish or to church authorities.

Bush, William. Georges Bernanos. Boston: Twayne, 1969. Bush discusses Bernanos’ contention that evil in modern society is connected with conservative social forces and that humans secretly covet totalitarian order. Examines The Diary of a Country Priest as a vehicle of private thoughts that sustain the dying priest. Chief among these thoughts is the possibility that self-realization comes only with death.

Curran, Beth Kathryn. Touching God: The Novels of Georges Bernanos in the Films of Robert Bresson. New York: Peter Lang, 2006. A look at the themes of the Catholic novelist and the spiritual filmmaker and their attempts to articulate grace and redemption through the suffering and death of characters in their works.

Field, Frank. “Georges Bernanos and the Kingdom of God.” In Three French Writers and the Great War: Studies in the Rise of Fascism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1975. Overestimates the effect of World War I on Bernanos’ pessimism but offers insights into the political and social underpinning of The Diary of a Country Priest. Although impressionistic, this study links Bernanos to larger trends in 1920’s ideology.

Hebblethwaite, Peter. Bernanos: An Introduction. New York: Hillary House, 1965. This work emphasizes the importance of childhood events as the psychological determinant of adult behavior. Offers a close reading of The Diary of a Country Priest with a detailed analysis of Bernanos’ innovative techniques. The priest is presented as an exemplar of spiritual tenacity.

Heher, Michael. Lost Art of Walking on Water: ReImagining the Priesthood. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 2004. Heher describes the modern plight and perils of the priesthood.

Molnar, Thomas. Bernanos: His Political Thought and Prophecy. Somerset, N.J.: Transaction, 1997. Bernanos’ work went beyond commentary on religion and had political implications for his day and the future.