Hippolyte-Jean Giraudoux was born October 29, 1882, in Bellac, France, not far from Limoges. His father, Léger, trained as an engineer, was a career civil servant based in the Limousin region; the boy grew up in a number of neighboring towns and villages, retaining a fondness for the area that he would later express frequently in his work. A gifted and diligent student, often the winner of scholarship prizes, young Jean was attracted early in life to the study of international law and diplomacy. On completion of studies at the prestigious École Normale Supérieure in Paris, Giraudoux crossed the Atlantic to pursue graduate study at Harvard University before embarking on his diplomatic career. Mobilized briefly during World War I, Giraudoux later assumed an active role in negotiations leading to the Treaty of Versailles and continued, in his spare time, to build his reputation as a writer. A dedicated civil servant like his father before him, Giraudoux remained active in diplomacy and government service throughout his adult life, even after his successes as a playwright had brought him fame and material success.
The outbreak of World War II found Giraudoux in charge of press relations for the French diplomatic corps, a position he had first occupied some fifteen years earlier. From the fall of France in 1940 until his death some four years later, Giraudoux spent much of his time, energy, and influence attempting to ensure an influential and prominent role for France in the eventual postwar world. His international reputation somewhat hampered by an acknowledged fondness for Germany and things German, his basic patriotism tempered by a hard-earned practical knowledge of diplomacy and politics, Giraudoux nevertheless clearly foresaw the threat posed to France (and to French national pride) by a coming world order divided between the United States and the Soviet Union. Within months after his death, a number of his plans for the reinstitution of local and regional government in France were in fact put into effect, allowing a more orderly flow of power than might otherwise have been possible. Giraudoux died in Paris on January 31, 1944, survived by his children and his widow, Suzanne.