Critical Evaluation

(Essentials of European Literature)

Franz Werfel, lyric poet, dramatist, and novelist was probably best known for THE SONG OF BERNADETTE, which became his greatest popular success. Werfel was a German Jew born in Prague. His background, his love of music, and his intense interest in the mystery of man and his relation to the divinity all found expression in his writings. THE SONG OF BERNADETTE is no exception. In fact, it is representative of many common elements of Werfel’s literary style, although its subject matter is somewhat narrow and confined by important facts, dates, and details.

During the early stages of World War II, Werfel and his wife, in their flight from the German Nazis, found refuge in the town of Lourdes. While there, Werfel made the now-famous vow that if he ever got to America he would make it his first priority to “sing the song of Bernadette,” as he eventually did in the form of a novel.

Werfel gathered extensive facts concerning the experiences of Bernadette Soubirous at the famous grotto of Massabielle. His careful detailed study of life at that time—political passions of leaders and intricacies of the Church hierarchy in France—made his work like that of a reporter gathering facts. The reporting aspect of his account, however, is sublime. The reader is caught up in the emotions, physical and spiritual, of every character to cross the pages. In his preface to the work, Werfel tells the reader that even though he is a Jew and...

(The entire section is 457 words.)