Georges Bernanos Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Georges Bernanos (behr-NAH-nohs) wrote one play, Dialogues des Carmélites (1949; The Fearless Heart, 1952), which he intended to be a film scenario. His short stories include “Madame Dargent,” which appeared in 1922; “Une Nuit” (a night), in 1928; and “Dialogue d’ombres” (dialogue of shadows), in 1928. This last short story lends its title to a collection of Bernanos’s short fiction, published in 1955. His hagiographical works include Saint Dominique (1926), Jeanne, relapse et sainte (1929; Sanctity Will Out, 1947), and Frère Martin: Essai sur Luther (1951; Brother Martin, 1952).

Bernanos wrote many essays and political articles, which are available in the following collections: Le Crépuscule des vieux (1956; the twilight of the aged), containing essays from 1909 to 1939, and Français, si vous saviez (1961; Frenchmen, if you knew), containing essays from 1945 to 1948. Although there is no complete collection of his correspondence, the most important letters are found in Georges Bernanos: Essais et témoignages (1949) and in many issues of Bulletin de la Société des amis de Georges Bernanos. A six-volume edition of his works, uvres de Bernanos, was published in 1947. His fiction is collected in uvres romanesques, suivies de “Dialogues des Carmélites” (1961).


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Although Georges Bernanos was a prolific author, with eight major novels and numerous political and journalistic essays to his credit, his reputation will probably always rest on Diary of a Country Priest and, to a lesser extent, The Fearless Heart, set to music in an opera by Francis Poulenc. Bernanos’s earlier works, such as Under the Sun of Satan, L’Imposture, and Joy, are dense, analytical, and disunited. His later works, including The Open Mind and Mouchette, are, despite their poetry and single vision, rather impenetrable to general readers. In Diary of a Country Priest and The Fearless Heart, however, Bernanos’s characters attain a heroism that is self-giving, capable of overcoming fear and attaining self-acceptance.

It is perhaps this human dimension of Bernanos’s heroes that most attracts the public. Bernanos was oriented toward the human limitations of humankind, rejecting the Nietzschean superman. Like Honoré de Balzac, he explored the social dimension of human relations rather than political theories, although much of his early journalistic work was intended to support the Action Française movement, and social themes constitute a large segment of his novels. His aim was to preserve the freedom of modern humans, who, in Bernanos’s view, had become the slave of “civilization.” Like Balzac, he deplored the corruptive power of money, of a world wrapped in paper. He mistrusted the machine and modern industrialism. He detested mediocrity and chose as his heroes young people with the ability to save a decadent and paralyzed society.

With his invectives against modern society symbolically...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Balthasar, Hans Urs von. Bernanos: An Ecclesial Existence. Translated by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis. San Francisco, Calif.: Ignatius Press, 1996. Balthasar, a theologian, analyzes Bernanos’s works. He describes Bernanos as a “deeply prayerful, practicing sacramental Catholic” who made everything he wrote an “ecclesial existence that has been given form.”

Blumenthal, Gerda. The Poetic Imagination of Georges Bernanos: An Essay in Interpretation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1965. Focuses primarily on The Diary of a Country Priest, but Blumenthal’s discussion of Bernanos’s mystical explanation of human behavior can be applied to all of the author’s work.

Brée, Germaine, and Margaret Guiton. “Private Worlds.” In An Age of Fiction: The French Novel from Gide to Camus. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1957. A literary history that places Bernanos within the context of twentieth century French novelists. Brée and Guiton view Bernanos’s reticence and revelation as complementary.

Bush, William. Georges Bernanos. New York: Twayne, 1969. This volume in the Twayne Authors’ series provides an overview of Bernanos’s life and work. Bush suggests that totalitarian order was a major preoccupation of Bernanos.

Curran, Beth Kathryn....

(The entire section is 516 words.)