François Mauriac Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

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.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

The youngest of five well-derived children destined for the professions, François Mauriac was born in Bordeaux on October 11, 1885. Following the death of her husband when the young Mauriac was less than two years old, Madame Mauriac and her children moved to the affluent but forbidding household of her mother, an atmosphere that was to loom large in the young novelist’s developing consciousness. Educated at first by the Marianite fathers and later at the University of Bordeaux, Mauriac moved to Paris in 1906 to prepare for study at the École Nationale des Chartes. By that time, however, he had already begun to travel in literary circles and was beginning to attract attention as a poet. Less affluent, perhaps, than his older contemporaries Marcel Proust and André Gide, Mauriac was nevertheless sufficiently well-off to be able to write and eat without the constraints of regular employment.

Soon after the acclaimed appearance of his first volume of poetry, Mauriac began work on Young Man in Chains, the first of several “apprentice” novels that in subsequent years would be all but repudiated by their author. Married in 1913 to Jeanne Lafont, Mauriac continued writing both poetry and novels with regularity but without distinction until 1922, when he at last achieved acknowledged success with A Kiss for the Leper. From then on, he was justly hailed as the major novelistic talent of his generation, consolidating his reputation with...

(The entire section is 546 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Winner of the 1952 Nobel Prize in Literature, François Mauriac (mawr-yahk) is unquestionably one of the most prolific and versatile writers of twentieth century France. He was born in Bordeaux, the fifth and youngest child of Jean-Paul and Claire Mauriac. The Bordeaux origins of his mother and the Langon, Malagar, and Landes origins of his father provide the major settings for the sociopsychological dramas in his novels, short novels, and plays. Many of his protagonists share Mauriac’s own experiences of youth in Bordeaux. At the Marianite school of Grand-Lebrun, which he attended between the ages of twelve and seventeen, Mauriac read those authors who first made a deep impression upon him and about whom he would later write commentaries: Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, Francis Jammes, Jean Racine, Honoré de Balzac, Maurice Barrès, and Blaise Pascal.

At the age of seventeen Mauriac enrolled at the University of Bordeaux, where he studied under Fortunat Strowski, a specialist on Pascal. While completing his degree in letters Mauriac joined the social Catholic movement of Marc Sangnier. Yet he continued to read Barrès, a lover of Pascal, individualism, introspection, and prayer. Instead of completing a thesis on the origins of the Franciscans in France, the twenty-one-year-old Mauriac decided to study theology in Paris, first with the Maristes, at which time he left Sangnier’s movement, and then at the School of Chartes.

The year 1909 marked the first turning point in Mauriac’s life: He abandoned his studies in theology, determined to become a writer. The same year he published his first work, a small collection of poems titled Les Mains jointes (folded hands). Encouraged by Barrès, Mauriac began to associate with such literary figures as Francis Jammes, Jean Cocteau, and Paul Claudel. Another collection of poems followed in 1911, and in 1913 he married Jeanne Lafon. After the publication of A Kiss for the Leper in 1922, Mauriac produced a series of other successful...

(The entire section is 835 words.)