Authors: Romain Rolland

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

French novelist and playwright

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Jean-Christophe, 1904-1912 (includes the following 10 novels; John-Christopher, 1910-1913; better known as Jean-Christophe, 1913)

L’Aube, 1904

Le Matin, 1904

L’Adolescent, 1904

La Révolte, 1906-1907

La Foire sur la place, 1908

Antoinette, 1908

Dans la maison, 1909

Les Amies, 1910

Le Buisson ardent, 1911

La Nouvelle Journée, 1912

L’Un contre tous, 1917 (incomplete serialization of Clérambault)

Colas Breugnon: Bonhomme vit encore!, 1919 (Colas Breugnon, 1919)

Clérambault: Histoire d’une conscience libre pendant la guerre, 1920 (Clerambault: The Story of an Independent Spirit During the War, 1921)

Pierre et Luce, 1920 (Pierre and Luce, 1922)

L’âme enchantée, 1922-1933 (7 volumes; The Soul Enchanted, 1925-1934)

Drama:

Saint Louis, pb. 1897

Aërt, pr., pb. 1898

Les Loups, pb. 1898 (The Wolves, 1937)

Le Triomphe de la raison, pr. 1899

Danton, pr., pb. 1900 (English translation, 1918)

Le Quatorze Juillet, pr., pb. 1902 (The Fourteenth of July, 1918)

Le Temps viendra, pb. 1903

La Montespan, pb. 1904 (The Montespan, 1923)

Théâtre de la révolution, pb. 1909 (includes Les Loups, Danton, and Le Quatorze Juillet)

Les Tragédies de la foi, pb. 1913 (includes Saint Louis, Aërt, and Le Triomphe de la raison)

Liluli, pb. 1919 (English translation, 1920)

Le Jeu de l’amour et de la mort, pb. 1925 (The Game of Love and Death, 1926)

Pâques fleuries, pb. 1926 (Palm Sunday, 1928)

Les Léonides, pb. 1928 (English translation, 1929)

Robespierre, pb. 1939

Nonfiction:

François Millet, 1902 (in English)

Beethoven, 1903 (English translation, 1907)

Le Théâtre du peuple: Essai d’esthétique d’un théâtre nouveau, 1903 (The People’s Theater, 1918)

Michel-Ange, 1905 (Michelangelo, 1915)

La Vie de Michel-Ange, 1906 (The Life of Michelangelo, 1912)

Musiciens d’aujourd’hui, 1908 (Musicians of To-day, 1914)

Musiciens d’autrefois, 1908 (Some Musicians of Former Days, 1915)

Haendel, 1910 (Handel, 1916)

Vie de Tolstoï, 1911 (Tolstoy, 1911)

Au-dessus de la mêlée, 1915 (Above the Battle, 1916)

Les Précurseurs, 1919 (The Forerunners, 1920)

Mahatma Gandhi, 1924 (Mahatma Gandhi: The Man Who Became One with the Universal Being, 1924)

Goethe et Beethoven, 1927 (Goethe and Beethoven, 1931)

Beethoven: Les Grandes Époques créatrices, 1928-1945 (Beethoven the Creator, partial translation 1929)

Essai sur la mystique et l’action de l’Inde vivante, 1929-1930 (Prophets of the New India, 1930; includes La Vie de Ramakrishna, 1929 [Ramakrishna]

La Vie de Vivekananda et l’Évangile universel, 1930 [Vivekananda])

“Empédocle d’Agrigente,” suivi de “L’Éclair de Spinoza,” 1931

Quinze ans de combat, 1919-1934, 1935 (I Will Not Rest, 1936)

Compagnons de route, essais littéraires, 1936

Le Voyage intérieur, 1942 (The Journey Within, 1947)

Péguy, 1944 (2 volumes)

L’Inde: Journal, 1915-1943, 1949

Journal des années de guerre, 1914-1919, 1952

L’Esprit libre, 1953 (includes Au-dessus de la mêlée and Les Précurseurs)

Mémoires et fragments du journal, 1956

Miscellaneous:

Cahiers Romain Rolland, 1948-1996 (30 volumes)

Biography

Romain Edmé Paul-Émile Rolland (raw-lahn), Nobel Prize-winning novelist, biographer, and playwright, is known primarily as the author of Jean-Christophe, the ten-volume story of a German musician living in France–symbolic of a union of European culture. Rolland was born on January 29, 1866, in Clamecy, France, the son of a notary. His mother was religious and a lover of music. As a boy, Rolland experienced poor health, but he amused himself with music and reading, becoming an admirer of William Shakespeare.{$I[AN]9810000077}{$I[A]Rolland, Romain}{$I[geo]FRANCE;Rolland, Romain}{$I[tim]1866;Rolland, Romain}

Romain Rolland

(©The Nobel Foundation)

He attended the college in Clamecy until he was fourteen and then continued his education at the schools St. Louis and Louis-le-grand in Paris. In 1886 he entered the École Normale Supérieure, at that time distinguished by its faculty and its scientists in residence, among them Louis Pasteur. Rolland specialized in history with Gabriel Monod. During that period he began to make the acquaintance of distinguished writers and critics, including Ernest Renan, one of the most eminent of French historians, and Leo Tolstoy. Rolland wrote to Tolstoy because he was depressed by the materialistic life around him and wanted to discuss the matter. He was also interested in Tolstoy’s aesthetic theories.

In 1889 Rolland received his bachelor’s degree and went on to the École Française d’Archeologie et d’Histoire in Rome, where he studied history and archaeology. During the next two years he studied, traveled in Italy and Sicily, and formed a close friendship with the aging author Malvida von Meysenburg.

Rolland then returned to Paris and married Marie Bréal, daughter of Michel Bréal, the philologist. Rolland’s doctorate was granted in 1895; his thesis was on the origins of European opera. His first published drama, succeeding a considerable number of unpublished dramas on the Italian Renaissance period, was Saint Louis. While teaching at the École Normale Supérieure he became a friend of Richard Strauss, Gabriele d’Annunzio, and Eleonora Duse. In 1898 he wrote an important play, The Wolves, which had as its subject the Dreyfus affair. Soon afterward his friend Charles Péguy founded a fortnightly publication titled Cahiers de la Quinzaine, in which, from 1900 on, Rolland published most of his important work, including Jean-Christophe.

Jean-Christophe established Rolland’s reputation in the literary world; in it he used his hero as a device for the criticism of the materialistic emphasis in France, and the dramatic values of the work made poignant the telling analysis of contemporary culture. Upon completion of the novel, Rolland was awarded the Grand Prize in Literature by the French Academy (1913), and two years later he received the Nobel Prize in Literature, after a recommendation by Anatole France for the French Academy.

In the meantime he suffered extreme criticism from France for the pacifist articles he wrote from Switzerland during World War I. While in Switzerland, he worked for the Red Cross and argued for peace by writing a series of careful apologetic articles. These were published as Above the Battle in 1915. His courageous and reasoned defense of his position against war later won for him praise from many of France’s outstanding intellectuals. After the war he spent two years in Paris. He then returned to Switzerland with his father and sister to live at Villeneuve, where he resided until 1938. While there he commenced an intensive study of India and made the friendship of Mahatma Gandhi, subject of a biography he published in 1924 (though Rolland never entirely accepted Gandhi’s philosophy).

His next important novel was the seven-volume The Soul Enchanted. Although this novel enhanced Rolland’s reputation, it did not eclipse the standing of Jean-Christophe as the novelist’s masterpiece. Over a period of years Rolland advocated a people’s theater, and in defense of his humanitarian philosophy he wrote a series of plays on themes of revolutionary heroism. From 1900 to 1939 he wrote eight of a projected cycle of twelve plays. He also achieved considerable distinction with his biographies, particularly with his studies of Ludwig Van Beethoven, Michelangelo, Tolstoy, and Gandhi.

Rolland made a trip to Moscow in 1935 as the guest of Maxim Gorky, shortly before Gorky’s death. While in the Soviet Union he met Joseph Stalin and other leaders of the government. Politically, Rolland was bitterly opposed to totalitarian forms of government and regarded himself as a republican with socialist tendencies. With Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, however, Rolland’s growing doubts about the practicality of Gandhian pacifism reached a crescendo, causing him to support armed resistance and defend Stalin as a potential ally against Germany. During the Occupation he was under house arrest by the Vichy government, but he continued to work and produced his biography of Charles Péguy. He died in 1944 at his home in Vézelay, France.

BibliographyFisher, David James. Romain Rolland and the Politics of Intellectual Engagement. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988. Divided into sections on Rolland: his ambiguous position in the 1920’s, his involvement in left-wing politics in the 1930’s, and a concluding chapter on “pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will.” Includes detailed notes and bibliography.Francis, R. A. Romain Rolland. Oxford, England: Berg, 1999. An excellent study of Rolland’s life and influences on his art.March, Harold. Romain Rolland. New York: Twayne, 1971. An introductory study, with chapters largely built around the places where Rolland lived and worked. Includes a chronology, notes, and bibliography.Starr, William Thomas. Romain Rolland: One Against All, a Biography. The Hague, the Netherlands: Mouton, 1971. Starr provides a study of Rolland based on his letters, his other writings, and the impressions of others. Argues that these strands cannot be separated in discussing Rolland. Includes a chronology and index.Zweig, Stefan. Romain Rolland: The Man and His Work. New York: Thomas Seltzer, 1921. Zweig, a veteran biographer of many modern figures, provides a comprehensive, lively account, divided into Part I: Biographical; Part II: Early Work as Dramatists; Part III: The Heroic Biographies; Part IV: Jean Christophe; Part V: Intermezzo Scherzo; Part VI: The Conscience of Europe. This structure is meant to capture the complexity of a public intellectual, political activist, and major literary figure. Zweig, a friend of Rolland, tends to eulogize his subject.
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