Authors: Claude Mauriac

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

French critic and novelist

Author Works

Nonfiction:

Jean Cocteau: Ou, La Vérité du mensonge, 1945

Malraux: Ou, Le Mal du héros, 1946

André Breton: Essai, 1949

Conversations avec André Gide, 1951 (Conversations with André Gide, 1965)

L’Amour du cinéma, 1954

L’Alittérature contemporaine, 1958 (The New Literature, 1959)

Le Temps immobile, 1970-1988 (10 volumes; volume 1 Une Amité contrariée, 1970, volume 2 Les Espaces imaginaires, 1975, volume 3 Et Comme l’espérance est violence, 1976, volume 4 La Terrace de Malagar, 1977, volume 5 Aimer de Gaulle, 1978, volume 6 Le Rire des pères dans les yeux des enfants, 1981, volume 7 Signes, rencontres et rendez-vous, 1983, volume 8 Bergère ô tour Eiffel, 1985, volume 9 Mauriac et fils, 1986, volume 10 L’Oncle Marcel, 1988)

Un Autre de Gaulle: Journal 1944-1954, 1971 (The Other de Gaulle: Diaries 1944-1954, 1973)

L’Eternité parfois, 1978

Le Temps accompli, 1991-1996 (4 volumes; volume 1 Le Temps accompli, 1991, volume 2 Histoire de ne pas oublier, 1992, volume 3 Le Pont du secret, 1993, volume 4 Travaillez quand vous avez encore la lumière, 1996)

Long Fiction:

Toutes les femmes sont fatales, 1957 (All Women Are Fatal, 1964)

Dîner en ville, 1959 (The Dinner Party, 1960)

La Marquise sortit à cinq heures, 1961 (The Marquise Went out at Five, 1962)

L’Agrandissement, 1963

L’Oubli, 1966

Le Bouddha s’est mis à trembler, 1979

Un coeur tout neuf, 1980

Radio nuit, 1982

Zabé, 1984

Trans-amour-étoiles, 1989

Drama:

Théâre, pb. 1968

Biography

The greatest burden for Claude Mauriac (mawr-yahk) in becoming a highly successful literary critic and novelist was having to labor under the enormous reputation of his renowned father, the French novelist and Nobel laureate François Mauriac, who was the leading Roman Catholic novelist and French spokesman for conservative causes of the early twentieth century. Claude Mauriac was brought up in a home of wealth, fame, and privilege in the exclusive Passy section of Paris. He shared childhood and early adolescent enthusiasms for flying with his closest friend, Bertrand Gay-Lussac who, at age fourteen, died suddenly of mastoiditis. Gay-Lussac’s death scarred Claude Mauriac for the rest of his life; time, mortality, and death became the principal themes he addressed in his writing. Perhaps another reason for his preoccupation with time was his 1951 marriage to Marie-Claude Mante, the grand-niece of novelist Marcel Proust. Proust’s seven-volume À la recherche du temps perdu (1913-1927; Remembrance of Things Past, 1922-1931)–his attempt to redeem humanity from the devastating effects of time–became the model for Mauriac’s ten-volume grand collage Le Temps immobile (time immobilized).{$I[AN]9810001766}{$I[A]Mauriac, Claude}{$I[geo]FRANCE;Mauriac, Claude}{$I[tim]1914;Mauriac, Claude}

Mauriac never seriously attempted to write under the shadow of his famous novelist father. He attained a doctorate from the prestigious University of Paris Faculty of Law School in 1943. He never practiced law, however; instead, he became involved in journalism, working throughout his life as a regular columnist for Figaro (from 1946 to 1977) and as a film critic for Figaro Litteraire (from 1947 to 1972). Though an avowed agnostic and political leftist, in 1944 he was appointed personal secretary to Charles de Gaulle, an appointment he held until 1949. De Gaulle became an alternate father figure to Claude Mauriac; Mauriac began a lifelong practice of keeping journals in which he recorded detailed conversations and observations with de Gaulle, which later became the basis of two books. Along with the journals, Mauriac had always kept exhaustive notes on everything he read; he decided that he would publish these notes as literary criticism, another profession he pursued throughout his writing career. He collected many of these essays in The New Literature, a work that made him famous as a critic specializing in the analysis of the work of the New Wave novelists Alain Robbe-Grillet, Michel Butor, Nathalie Sarraute, Claude Simon, Robert Pinget, and Philippe Sollers.

After a 1956 trip to the United States, Mauriac decided that he was not content merely to write about literature. He decided to write a novel in the mode of the New Wave novelists that he so consistently defended. All Women Are Fatal, though not garnering much critical comment, became his first attempt at using interior dialogue as a major structuring device; he would use this technique throughout his career as a novelist. Bertrand Carnejoux, the protagonist, also became the central consciousness throughout the Le Temps immobile series, which became his major contribution to contemporary French literature. Both The Dinner Party (the title literally translates as “dinner in town”) and The Marquise Went out at Five, with Bertrand Carnejoux as protagonist, entertain notions of entering the minds of strangers, eavesdropping on conversations, and becoming privy to impressions and secret information of which, occasionally, not even the characters in the novels might be aware. What differentiates Mauriac’s work from that of many of the other New Wave novelists is his unique way of arranging his materials. He does not consider the ten volumes of Le Temps immobile as simply memoir or autobiography; rather, he calls his genre “the novel of my life, a novel in which everything is true.” Mauriac constructs these works from actual texts–historical documents, letters, selections from other writers’ journals, diaries, and fictions–and interweaves them with his own journals and letters, thus creating one of the century’s greatest intertextual collages. The materials are not chronologically arranged, however; they are interwoven thematically.

Mauriac’s method of redeeming human consciousness from the fall into time differs significantly from that of Proust. For Proust, memory was both content and form, whereas Mauriac’s use of diverse methods of documentation (such as journals, diaries, letters, and fictions) became not a mere recording device of the past but, rather, a perpetual reenactment of the present. The imagination, rather than memory, becomes the redeeming agent of the artist’s life in time. What the New Wave novelists and Mauriac discovered was that memory is simply another fictive device in the writer’s attempt to order the chaos of daily life. Though Mauriac did not publish any significant fiction in the wake of Le Temps immobile, his reputation as one of France’s major novelists and literary critics is secure. He was successful in forging his own unique literary career in spite of the immense reputation of his renowned father.

BibliographyBritton, Celia. The Nouveau Roman: Fiction, Theory, and Politics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1992. A study of the New Novel as practiced by Mauriac and his contemporaries.Higgins, Lynn A. New Novel, New Wave, New Politics: Fiction and the Representation of History in Postwar France. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996. A study of Mauriac’s literary milieu.Johnston, Stuart. “Structure in the Novels of Claude Mauriac.” French Review 38 (February, 1965). Lucidly explicates the complex interconnections between and among Mauriac’s novels.Mercier, Vivian. “Claude Mauriac: The Immobilization of Time” In The New Novel from Queneau to Pinget. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1971. This chapter evaluates Mauriac in the context of his fellow New Wave novelists.
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