François Charles Mauriac (1885-1970)was a
French novelist, essayist, poet, playwright, journalist, winner of the Nobel Prize
for Literature in 1952. Mauriac belonged to the long tradition of French Roman Catholic
writers, who examined the problems of good and evil in human nature and in the world.
He was a major influence on Yukio Mishima, the Japanese novelist. (Which is my reason for this node.)
François Mauriac was born in Bordeaux as the youngest son of Jean-Paul Mauriac, a wealthy businessman. When Mauriac was not quite two years old, his father died, and the family lived with grandparents. His mother was a devout Catholic who was influenced by Jansenist thought. From the age of seven Mauriac attended a school run by the Marianite Order, and the author never ceased to acknowledge the importance of his early education. Although he was unhappy at Ste Marie. Mauriac studied at the University of Bordeaux, receiving his licence (the equivalent of an M.A.) in 1905. Next year he went to Paris to prepare for entrance in the École des Chartes. He was accepted in 1908 but Mauriac remained at the school only a few months and decided to devote himself entirely to literature. His first volume of poems, Les Mains Jointes, appeared in 1909.
Mauriac's work show infleunce from several writers. He wrote studies on Racine and Marcel Proust, but Pascal was perhaps the most important thinker for him.
Mauriac's style was poetic, full of suggestion. He wrote "I believe that only poetry counts and that only through the poetical elements enclosed in a work of art of any genre whatever does that work deserve to last. A great novelist is first of all a great poet."
Mauriac's early works depicted the struggle of passion and conscience, but after a spiritual crisis he solved this conflict in favor of the spirit: "Christianity makes no provision for the flesh. It suppresses it."
During WW I Mauriac served in the Balkans as a Red Cross hospital orderly. After the war he wrote two novels, but it was "Le Baiser au Lépreux" (1922, "The Kiss to the Leper"), that became a huge success. The following novels were condemned by the Catholic right wing. "The Kiss to the Leper" was a story of a wealthy but hideously ugly young man who is destroyed by an arranged marriage with a beautiful peasant girl.
During the German occupation of France in World War II, Mauriac wrote a protest against German tyranny and was forced to hide for some time. In the 1950s he became a supporter of de Gaulle and his anticolonial policies in Morocco. He wrote for Algerian independence, condemned the use of torture by the French army in Algeria, and allied with Catholics on the left. From the mid-1950s Mauriac wrote a weekly newspaper column, Bloc-Notes, which gained a large audience. He also published a series of personal memoirs and a biography of de Gaulle.
Mauriac died on September 1, 1970, in Paris.