Jean-Jacques Bernard Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Although Jean-Jacques Bernard’s reputation rests largely on his drama, he wrote several significant prose works. Primary among these is Le Camp de la mort lente (1944; The Camp of Slow Death, 1945), a powerful memoir of his imprisonment by the Nazis in 1941-1942 and his subsequent conversion to Catholicism. He published Le Pain rouge, a collection of stories focusing on the occupation of France, in 1947 and a novel, Marie et le Vagabond, in 1949. His memoir of his years in theater, Mon ami le théâtre (1958), remained popular and in print into the twenty-first century.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Along with playwright Denys Amiel, Maurice Maeterlinck, and Charles Vildrac, Jean-Jacques Bernard popularized a type of theater that has been called the Theater of the Unspoken (l’inexprimé) or the theater of the unexpressed for its emphasis on nonverbal communication and symbolism. This movement arose after World War I in response to the perceived verbal excesses of earlier French drama. Bernard was active in numerous theater organizations and served as president of La Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques from 1957 to 1959.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)


Branford, Kester Adrian. A Study of Jean-Jacques Bernard’s Théâtre de L’Inexprimé. University, Miss.: Romance Monographs, 1977. Criticism and interpretation of Bernard, with emphasis on the Theater of the Unspoken. Bibliography.

Coindreau, Maurice. La Farce est jouée: Vingt-cinq ans de théâtre français, 1900-1925. New York: Éditions de la Maison Française, 1942. This classic is an imaginative, scholarly, pioneering work on numerous groups or schools of playwrights of the period, including Bernard. In French.

Daniels, May. The French Drama of the Unspoken. 1953. Reprint. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1977. An indispensable study of Bernard and other writers of l’inexprimé (the unexpressed)—including Maurice Maeterlinck, Charles Vildrac, and Denys Amiel. Daniels points out the positive contributions made by these writers in their plays, but she also sees the limitations of such theories.

Knowles, Dorothy. French Drama of the Inter-War Years, 1918-1939. London: Harrap, 1967. A widely available book that deals in literary history, including topics such as the differences between the theater of the boulevard and studio theater and the historical and cultural dimensions of French theater during this era. Contains much information regarding titles, plots, and chronology.

Surer, Paul. Cinquante ans de Théâtre. Paris: Société d’Édition d’Enseignement Supérieur, 1969. A history of French theater from 1919 to the Theater of the Absurd. Surer includes Bernard in a chapter titled “Le Théâtre intimiste,” in which he suggests that the subtleties of the theater of the “unexpressed” may appeal only to a small, sophisticated audience. In French.