Authors: Paul Claudel

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

French poet and playwright

Identity: Catholic

Author Works


Connaissance de l’est, 1900, 1952 (The East I Know, 1914)

Art poétique, 1907 (Poetic Art, 1948)

Cinq Grandes Odes, 1910 (Five Great Odes, 1967)

Vers d’exil, 1912

Corona Benignitatis Anni Dei, 1915 (Coronal, 1943)

La Messe là-bas, 1921

Poèmes de guerre, 1922 (partial translation, Three Poems of the War, 1919)

Feuilles de saints, 1925

Cent Phrases pour éventails, 1927 (A Hundred Movements for a Fan, 1992)

La Cantate à trois voix, 1931

Dodoitzu, 1945

Poèmes et paroles durant la guerre de trente ans, 1945

Visages radieux, 1947

Premiers Vers, 1950

Poésies diverses, 1957

Autres poèmes d’après le chinois, 1957

Petits Poèmes d’après le chinois, 1957

Traductions de poèmes, 1957

OEuvre poétique, 1957

Poèmes retrouvés, 1967


L’Endormie,wr. 1886-1888, pb. 1925

Tête d’or, pb. 1890, second version wr. 1895, pb. 1901 (English translation, 1919)

Fragment d’un drame, pb. 1892

La Jeune Fille Violaine, wr. 1892, pb. 1926, second version pb. 1901

La Ville, pb. 1893, second version pb. 1901 (The City, 1920)

L’Échange,wr. 1893-1894, pb. 1901, second version pr. 1951

Le Repos du septième jour,wr. 1896, pb. 1901

Partage de midi, pb. 1906, second version pr., pb. 1948 (Break of Noon, 1960)

L’Otage, pb. 1911 (The Hostage, 1917)

L’Annonce faite à Marie, pr., pb. 1912, second version pr. 1948 (The Tidings Brought to Mary, 1916)

Le Pain dur,wr. 1913-1914, pb. 1918 (The Crusts, 1945)

Protée, pb. 1914, second version pb. 1927 (Proteus, 1921)

La Nuit de Noël, pb. 1915

Le Père humilié,wr. 1915-1916, pb. 1920 (The Humiliation of the Father, 1945)

L’Ours et la lune, pb. 1919

Le Soulier de satin: Ou, Le Pire n’est pas toujours sûr, wr. 1919-1924, pb. 1928-1929 (The Satin Slipper: Or, The Worst Is Not the Surest, 1931)

L’Homme et son désir, pr., pb. 1921

La Femme et son ombre, pr. in Japanese 1923, pb. 1927

Le Peuple des hommes cassés, wr. 1927, pb. 1952

Sous le rempart d’Athènes, pr., pb. 1927

Le Livre de Christophe Colomb, pb. 1929 (libretto; music by Darius Milhaud; The Book of Christopher Columbus, 1930)

Le Festin de la sagesse, wr. 1934, pb. 1939

Le Jet de Pierre, wr. 1937, pb. 1949

Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher, pr. in German 1938, pb. 1938 (English translation, 1939)

L’Histoire de Tobie et de Sara, pb. 1942 (music by Milhaud)

Le Ravissement de Scapin, wr. 1949, pb. 1958


Jacques Rivière et Paul Claudel, 1926 (Letters to a Doubter: Correspondence of Jacque Rivière and Paul Claudel, 1929)

Positions et propositions I, 1928

L’Oiseau noir dans le soleil levant, 1929

Écoute,ma fille, 1934

Positions et propositions II, 1934 (Ways and Crossways, 1933)

Conversations dans le Loir-et-Cher, 1935

Un Poète regarde la Croix, 1935 (A Poet Before the Cross, 1958)

Figures et paraboles, 1936

Toi, qui es-tu?, 1936

Les Aventures de Sophie, 1937

L’Épée et le miroir, 1939

Contacts et circonstances, 1940

Présence et prophétie, 1942

Seigneur, apprenez-nous à prier, 1942 (Lord, TeachUs to Pray, 1948)

Le Livre de Job, 1946

L’Oeil écoute, 1946 (The Eye Listens, 1950)

Discours et remerciements, 1947

Du côté de chez Ramuz, 1947

La Rose et le rosaire, 1947

Paul Claudel interroge le Cantique des Cantiques, 1948

Sous le signe du dragon, 1948

Accompagnements, 1949

André Gide et Paul Claudel, 1899- 1926, 1949 (The Correspondence, 1899-1926, Between Paul Claudel and André Gide, 1952)

Emmaüs, 1949

Une voix sur Israël, 1950

André Suarès et Paul Claudel, 1951

L’Évangile d’Isaïe, 1951

Francis Jammes-Gabriel Frizeau et Paul Claudel, 1952

Introduction au Livre de Ruth, 1952

Paul Claudel interroge l’Apocalypse, 1952

Le Symbolism de la Salette, 1952

J’aime la Bible, 1955 (The Essence of the Bible, 1957)

Conversation sur Jean Racine, 1956

Qui ne souffre pas? Reflexions sur le problème social, 1958

Darius Milhau et Paul Claudel, 1961

Aurélien Lugné-Poe et Paul Claudel, 1964

Au milieu des vitraux de l’Apocalypse, 1966

Jacques Copeau-Charles Dullin- Louis Jouvet et Paul Claudel, 1966

Journal I, 1968

Journal II, 1969

Mémoires improvisés, 1969


OEuvres complètes, 1950-1967 (27 volumes)


Paul Claudel (kloh-dehl) was born in a small town northeast of Paris on August 6, 1868. His father was a minor government employee. The family lived in the provinces until 1882, at which time, when Claudel was fourteen, his father was assigned to Paris. Claudel attended a good school in the capital and did well; however, he felt a great spiritual hunger that could not be satisfied by the positivist intellectual milieu of the time. Paul Claudel was the most influential Catholic poet and playwright in France during the first half of the twentieth century. His sister Camille was a famous sculptor.{$I[AN]9810001448}{$I[A]Claudel, Paul}{$I[geo]FRANCE;Claudel, Paul}{$I[geo]CATHOLIC;Claudel, Paul}{$I[tim]1868;Claudel, Paul}

Paul Claudel

(Library of Congress)

In 1886, Claudel entered the Political Science Academy to train for the foreign service. In that same year he experienced a double spiritual shock: He was dazzled by the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud, and he underwent a mystical religious experience in the cathedral of Notre-Dame. The result was a lifelong commitment to poetry and the Catholic faith; thereafter, Claudel never separated his religious and his artistic life.

In the late 1880’s and early 1890’s, Claudel, who had begun writing when he was fourteen, wrote two of his most important plays: Tête d’Or and The City. He began his diplomatic career in 1890, and in 1893 he left for a two-year tour of duty in the United States. From 1895 to 1909, Claudel was stationed in the Far East. These fourteen years were literarily productive. The poet wrote his finest lyric poetry during this time–most notably, Five Great Odes–as well as several plays and a good deal of important literary criticism. After leaving Asia, Claudel served in Germany, Italy, and Brazil. In 1920, he was stationed in Denmark, and in 1922 he was appointed ambassador to Japan. Claudel’s two careers, poetry and diplomacy, were equally rewarding for him throughout his life. Always writing poetry, fiction, criticism, and drama (his complete works take up one hundred volumes), Claudel served as ambassador to the United States (1928-1933) and then to Belgium until 1936, when he returned home to France to retire. For more than four decades Claudel lived and worked outside of France. He wrote extensively during his years in the diplomatic service. This self-imposed separation from France gave him the opportunity to develop his own literary interests, which were not greatly influenced by other French writers of his era. The major influences on him were Rimbaud, the Bible, and the classical Greek and Roman writers he had loved from his youth.

During the next ten years, Claudel increasingly emphasized drama, and it was primarily as a dramatist that he was admired. His theatrical masterpiece The Satin Slipper: Or, The Worst Is Not the Surest had been first published in 1928-1929, but it was not performed until 1943, when it was staged in German-occupied Paris by the director Jean-Louis Barrault with music composed by Arthur Honegger.

Claudel is still much better known as a playwright than a poet in the United States. Slowly he became a kind of patriarch of French letters, although he was not elected to the French Academy until 1946, when he was seventy-eight years old. His last years were taken up by writing poetic commentaries on the Bible; he became even more thoroughly convinced as he grew older that the Bible and religion were the sources of both grace and poetry. Claudel died at the age of eighty-six in 1955. His funeral was held in the cathedral of Notre-Dame.

BibliographyBugliani, Ann. Women and the Feminine Principle in the Works of Paul Claudel. Madrid: J. Porrúa Turanzas, 1977. This study focuses on the portrayal of women in Claudel’s works. Bibliography.Caranfa, Angelo. Claudel: Beauty and Grace. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1989. Clearly explains the complex relationship between Claudel’s aesthetics and his belief in Catholicism, as expressed both in his plays and in his poetry. The clearest introduction to Claudel’s religious beliefs.Chiari, Joseph. The Poetic Drama of Paul Claudel. New York: Gordian Press, 1969. Critical appraisal of Claudel’s plays. Includes bibliography.Griffiths, Richard. Claudel: A Reappraisal. Chester Springs, Pa.: Dufour Editions, 1970. Criticism of Claudel’s major works, with bibliography.Humes, Joy. Two Against Time: A Study of the Very Present Worlds of Paul Claudel and Charles Péguy. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1978. Contains an excellent analysis of the two major French Catholic poets of the twentieth century. The paradox in the title of this book refers to the fact that both Péguy and Claudel were more concerned with the representation of the divine in this life and in the next than with meditations on social and political events.Killiam, Marie-Thérèse. The Art Criticism of Paul Claudel. New York: Peter Lang, 1990. A look at Claudel’s critiques of art, which reflected his aesthetic sensibilities, which also found expression in his writings. Bibliography and index.Knapp, Bettina L. Paul Claudel. New York: Ungar, 1982. Critical analysis of Claudel’s plays.Lambert, Carole J. The Empty Cross: Medieval Hopes, Modern Futility in the Theater of Maurice Maeterlinck, Paul Claudel, August Strindberg, and Georg Kaiser. New York: Garland, 1990. The works of Maeterlinck, Claudel, Strindberg, and Kaiser are compared and contrasted. Bibliography.Longstaffe, Moya. Metamorphoses of Passion and the Heroic in French Literature. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 1999. A historical and critical interpretation of the works of Pierre Corneille, Stendhal, and Paul Claudel.Moses, Nagy. “When the Heart Speaks of Its Reasons: Cinq Grandes Odes.” Claudel Studies 21 (1994): 45-57. This American scholarly journal appears annually and includes excellent essays on Claudel’s works. This article contains a thoughtful analysis of his poetic masterpiece.Paliyenko, Adrianna. Mis-reading the Creative Impulse: The Poetic Subject in Rimbaud and Claudel. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1997. Claudel found inspiration in the visionary poetry of the late nineteenth century French poet Arthur Rimbaud, but he transformed the agnostic Rimbaud into an orthodox Catholic believer. Palijenko explains that Claudel’s clear misreading of Rimbaud’s poetry had a profound influence on his own attempt to reconcile modernity and Catholicism in his own poetry.Waters, Harold. Paul Claudel. New York: Twayne, 1970. Remains the best general introduction in English to Claudel’s long career as a diplomat and to his plays and poetry. Contains an excellent annotated bibliography of studies on Claudel.Watson, Harold. Claudel’s Immortal Heroes: A Choice of Deaths. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1971. An analysis of the characters in Claudel’s work. Includes bibliographic references.
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