Authors: Alphonse Daudet

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

French novelist and short-story writer

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Le Petit Chose, 1868 (My Brother Jack, 1877; also known as The Little Good-for-Nothing, 1878)

Adventures prodigieuses de Tartarin de Tarascon, 1872 (The New Don Quixote, 1875; also known as Tartarin of Tarascon, 1910)

Fromont jeune et Risler aîné, 1874 (Fromont the Younger and Risler the Elder, 1880)

Jack, 1876 (English translation, 1877)

Le Nabab, 1877 (The Nabob, 1878)

Le Rois en exil, 1879 (Kings in Exile, 1880)

Numa Roumestan, 1881 (English translation, 1882)

L’Évangéliste, 1883 (English translation, 1883; also known as Port Salvation, 1883)

Sapho, 1884 (Sappho, 1886)

Tartarin sur les Alpes, 1885 (Tartarin on the Alps, 1887)

L’Immortel, 1888 (One of the Forty, 1888)

Port-Tarascon, 1890 (Port Tarascon, 1890)

Short Fiction:

Lettres de mon moulin, 1869 (Letters from My Mill, 1880)

Contes du lundi, 1873, 1876 (Monday Tales, 1927)

Les Femmes d’artistes, 1874 (Artists’ Wives, 1890)

La Belle Nivernaise: Histoire d’un vieux bateau et de son equipage, 1886 (Le Belle Nivernaise: The Story of a Boat and Her Crew, and Other Stories, 1887)

La Fédor, 1896 (English translation, 1899)

Le Trésor d’Arlatan, 1897 (Arlatan’s Treasure, 1899)

Drama:

La Dernière Idole, pr., pb. 1862 (with Ernest L’Épine)

L’Oeillet blanc, pr. 1865 (with Ernest Manuell; The Last Lily, 1870)

L’Arlésienne, pr. 1872 (The Woman from Arles, 1930)

Lise Tavernier, pr. 1872 (English translation, 1890)

Poetry:

Les Amoureuses, 1858, 1873

Nonfiction:

Lettres à un absent, Paris, 1870-1871, 1871 (Letters to an Absent One, 1900)

Souvenirs d’un homme de lettres, 1888 (Recollections of a Literary Man, 1889)

Trente Ans de Paris, 1888 (Thirty Years of Paris and of My Literary Life, 1888)

Miscellaneous:

The Complete Works, 1898-1900 (24 volumes)

Biography

Alphonse Daudet (doh-day) is among the most durable of the literary figures of France in the last half of the nineteenth century, as well as one of the most prolific of his generation. His poetic approach to realism made him universally popular, for, unlike his contemporaries, he wrote with a sympathy and a cautious optimism that produced an appealing tenderness without recourse to mawkish sentimentality. Critics who find his prose difficult to define have termed him variously a realist, a naturalist, an impressionist, and an independent. Daudet himself professed to follow no school, maintaining that all such inflexibility is absurd.{$I[AN]9810001488}{$I[A]Daudet, Alphonse}{$I[geo]FRANCE;Daudet, Alphonse}{$I[tim]1840;Daudet, Alphonse}

Alphonse Daudet

(Library of Congress)

A native of Nîmes, in Provence, where he was born in 1840 and where his family struggled to preserve a rapidly failing silk weaving business, Daudet grew up in a period of financial crises which taught him sympathy for all human failings. At the age of sixteen, he was forced to take a position as a novice instructor in a small provincial school at Alais, where he suffered innumerable humiliations and hardships, most of which he later incorporated into his first novel, My Brother Jack. Two years later, he joined his brother in Paris to seek his fortune as an author. Believing himself destined to be a poet, Daudet made his debut with a small volume of poetry patterned after the romantic verses of Alfred de Musset. Entitled Les Amoureuses, the collection had a vogue in the salons of the period and brought him to the attention of the Duc de Morny, who hired him as a secretary. It was at this time that Daudet was stricken with a nervous disease that was to plague him until his death.

Once settled in Paris, Daudet began a succession of novels and collections of short stories, which established him as an important author. Letters from My Mill is a volume of short stories whose setting is Daudet’s beloved Provence; the work contains some of Daudet’s most delightful sketches. The Franco-Prussian war produced Letters to an Absent One, a collection of semihistorical reminiscences of the war. In 1872, Daudet published the first of the amusing Tartarin trilogy, Tartarin of Tarascon, the story of a Provençal who sets out for Algeria to make good his boasts that he is a first-rate killer of lions. Tartarin on the Alps and Port Tarascon complete the trilogy. The novel that was crowned by the French Academy, Froment the Younger and Risler the Elder, wherein a jealous, scheming wife ruins a prosperous business partnership, is considered by many to be Daudet’s finest novel and marks the point at which Daudet turned from his native Provence to write of the manners and mores of the Second Empire. Jack is a two-volume treatise of the struggles of a young boy to come to terms with life in the face of an indifferent mother and her pseudo-intellectual lover. The Nabob depicts the attempts of a wealthy Tunisian expatriate to buy respectability in Parisian society. Kings in Exile gives a vivid picture of the plight of exiled royalty struggling to maintain a life it can no longer afford.

Other novels exploring various segments of Parisian society include Numa Roumestan, a novel of manners; Sappho, concerning the vicissitudes of a young provincial who finds a mistress in Paris only to become ensnared by her demanding love, and One of the Forty.

In addition to his novels and poems, Daudet wrote several dramas, the best known of which is The Woman from Arles, based on one of his short stories. He frequently contributed art and theater criticism to journals and newspapers, along with his short stories and articles.

Although he was never elected to the French Academy, Daudet remains one of the most beloved and respected authors of France. His novels enjoyed an enormous vogue in their day, and their exceptional sensitivity has never lost its attraction for admirers of the man who saw himself as a marchand de bonheur (merchant of happiness).

BibliographyDaudet, Alphonse. In the Land of Pain. Edited and translated by Julian Barnes. New York: Knopf, 2003. Daudet's mind kept thinking and reflecting when his body was breaking down because of tertiary syphilis, and his noted thoughts about the banal as well as the transformative aspects of pain, suffering, and attempts at treatment, were eventually published by his son as La Doulou (pain). In the Land of Pain includes a biographical introduction and extensive notes by Barnes.Daudet, Léon. Alphonse Daudet. Translated by Charles De Kay. Boston: Little, Brown, 1901. A biography by Daudet’s son, a journalist. Also includes an essay “Mon Frère et moi,” by Ernest Daudet.Dobie, Grace Vera. Alphonse Daudet. London: Nelson, 1949. This literary biography is a reliable source of facts on the writer’s life from a traditional viewpoint. Provides, however, little assessment of his works.Hamilton, James F. “The Recovery of Psychic Center in Daudet’s lettres de mon moulin.” Nineteenth-Century French Studies 5 (Fall/Winter, 1995/1996): 133-143. Argues that the book’s bipolar structure reflects a struggle in the male ego for and against the integration of the feminine; suggests that the windmill and the lighthouse reflect the feminine versus the masculine side of the self.Hare, Geoffrey E. Alphonse Daudet: A Critical Bibliography. 2 vols. London: Grant and Cutler, 1978. A painstakingly compiled bibliography of the author’s works by genre, along with listings of French and international studies; astute critical commentary on critical works.MacConmara, Maitiú. “Provincial Culture in the Work of Two French Writers.” Studies 53 (Summer, 1974): 167-176. An analysis of Guy de Maupassant and Daudet’s treatments of minority cultures. Claims that Daudet’s Provençal works reveal the crisis of an old civilization invaded by dominant French social and cultural forces.Roche, Alphonse Victor. Alphonse Daudet. Boston: Twayne, 1976. A biographical approach that summarizes Daudet’s major works: Contains, however, a number of proofreading blunders.Sachs, Murray. The Career of Alphonse Daudet: A Critical Study. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965. An excellent, reliable study of the author and his works.
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