Julien Green Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Julien Green was born of American parents in Paris on September 6, 1900. His father was from Virginia, his mother originally from Georgia; at the time his father’s business had taken the family to Paris. Although Julien attended French schools and learned to speak French fluently, he was required at home to learn English thoroughly. His mother, who was an Episcopalian, also held daily Bible readings with her family. Thus Green was early affected by the awe and mystery of religion, as well as by its significance to him. In 1915, after his mother’s death, he converted to Roman Catholicism, only to enter a period of apostasy later on. His journals, however, record with deep feeling and humility the account of his return to faith in 1939.

During World War I, he was at first too young to join the army and served in the American Field Service, in which he saw service at the front in both France and Italy. In 1918, he was able to join the French artillery. After the war, an uncle in the United States persuaded Green to pursue his studies at the University of Virginia. While he was there, the university literary magazine published a short piece of his called “The Apprentice Psychiatrist,” an early work holding promise of his later novels. After three years, however, Green became homesick for France and returned without having completed his course of study.

After a brief period of art studies, Green determined to write for his career. His first novel, Avarice House, was favorably received in France and the United States. The story, which is set in Virginia, concerns a niggardly and cruel...

(The entire section is 663 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Julien Hartridge Green was born in Paris on September 6, 1900, the youngest of eight children. His father, Edward Moon Green of Virginia, had since 1895 served as European agent of the Southern Cotton Seed Oil Company. Green’s mother, Mary Hartridge of Savannah, Georgia, dominated her son’s early life with a curious blend of love and Puritan guilt; her death in 1914, instead of liberating the young Green from the tyranny of her moods and ideas, seems rather to have increased her hold upon his developing conscience. Green grew to adulthood torn between a strong, if repressed, sensuality and a mystical desire for sainthood, often equally strong. Converted to Catholicism within a year after his mother’s death, he seriously considered entering a monastic order but deferred his plans for the duration of World War I. In 1917, he served as an ambulance driver, first for the American Field Service and later for the Red Cross; the following year, still (as he remained) a U.S. citizen, he obtained a commission in the French army by first enlisting in the Foreign Legion. Demobilized in 1919, he returned to Paris and soon renounced his monastic vocation, a loss that caused him considerable anguish.

Unable to decide on a career, he accepted with some reluctance the offer of a Hartridge uncle to finance his education at the University of Virginia. Enrolled as a “special student,” Green read widely in literature, religion, and sociology; in 1921, after two...

(The entire section is 408 words.)