Roger Martin du Gard Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Roger Martin du Gard (mahr-tan dew gahr) achieved his reputation as a novelist with the publication of Jean Barois in 1913. After World War I, during which he served in the motor transport division, he undertook his magnum opus, The Thibaults, the first volumes of which came out in the early 1920’s and the eighth and last, called simply Épilogue, in 1940. In recognition of his performance in this cyclical work, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1937.

Martin du Gard was born in 1881 into an established, well-to-do Catholic family of lawyers and magistrates. He made this same bourgeois class the subject of his novels, and even though his theme is revolt and disintegration, he seems to have inherited from his background the qualities for which he is most often praised: integrity, solidity, and sense. He was educated at the best schools in Paris, and in 1906 he received from the École de Chartres the advanced degree of archivist-paleographer.

His scholarly temperament is evident in his fiction; his friend André Gide remarked that Martin du Gard was interested in general laws of behavior rather than in exceptional cases and that he envied him his obstinate patience in pursuing his goal. In his Nobel Prize speech Martin du Gard referred to himself as an “investigator as objective as is humanly possible.” In his fiction he strives for and achieves an almost photographic fidelity, especially notable in his dialogue, and the...

(The entire section is 609 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Roger Martin du Gard was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a town near Paris, on March 23, 1881. Both of his parents were of the upper middle class. Although he benefited from that circumstance and lived all of his life in material comfort without having to work for it, he did realize the weakness of the ethical foundation of his class and sought to bring about social and economic change.

Because of his discreet way of life and because most of his private papers remain unpublished and unavailable to scholars, much is left unknown about Martin du Gard. He grew up in Paris, where he attended the École Fénelon, a private Catholic school, and later Condorcet, one of the better Parisian lycées. While still a child, he was fascinated with literature and felt the urge to write. At Fénelon, his adviser, the Abbé Hébert, gave him Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1865-1869) to read. Martin du Gard always acknowledged the great impact Tolstoy’s masterpiece had on his concept of the novel and his understanding of the place of history in fiction. Hébert, a Modernist priest, also had a considerable influence on Martin du Gard’s spiritual evolution.

After taking his baccalauréat degrees, Martin du Gard enrolled at the École des Chartes at the Sorbonne. There, he studied historiography and paleography. This experience taught him the importance of history and documentation as well as a sense of discipline in writing, which was to serve him in good stead throughout his career.

In 1906, Martin du Gard married Hélène Foucault, the daughter of a wealthy Parisian lawyer. In spite of the similarity of their backgrounds, his agnosticism, which began in adolescence, and her continued adherence to her Catholic faith caused a deepening rift between them. Shortly after his marriage, he traveled with Foucault in North Africa and began his writing career. He abandoned his first work, “Une Vie de Saint” (a...

(The entire section is 795 words.)