French Literature From World War I to 1945 Part II

In the poetry, the impulses of surrealism and symbolism were taken up (R. Char, H. Michaux, M. Jacob, P. Reverdy, P. Fargue and R. Desnos) or the poetry was cosmically-universally oriented (Claudel; Saint- John Perse, “Anabase”, 1924, German “Anabasis”; J. Supervielle; P.-J. Jouve; P. Emmanuel).

The theater was also multifaceted – although essentially traditional. In addition to the drama in the spirit of the “Renouveau catholique” (Claudel, “Le soulier de satin”, 1929; German “The silk shoe”), there was the psychological drama (C. Vildrac) and the ideological drama (Romains) in the form of a comedy, the poetic farce (M. Achard), the socially critical accented (A. Salacrou) and the more popular comedy (Pagnol); the boulevard theater also revived (S. Guitry, E. Bourdet). The theater is characterized by an experimental attitude in the sense of a synthesis of the most varied artistic means of expression and styles J. Cocteaus. The partly ironic, partly pessimistic pieces by J. Giraudoux and J. Anouilh reveala skeptical undertone. Typical for many authors of this time was the recourse to ancient myths, biblical and historical material, partly for the critical representation of their own time situation (“Orphée”, 1927, German “Orpheus”, by Cocteau; “La guerre de Troie n’aura pas lieu ”, 1935, German, among other things,“ The Trojan War does not take place ”, by Giraudoux; later,“ Antigone ”, 1946, German, by Anouilh).

The political instability of Europe in the period between the world wars, including can be seen in the crisis of parliamentarism, the Spanish civil war and the rise of fascism and National Socialism, a number of writers had – especially since 1930 – to take decisive positions (e.g. Bernanos in his anti-fascist pamphlet “Les grands cimetières sous la lune”, 1938; German “The great cemeteries under the moon”), to active intervention (e.g. Malraux by participating in the Spanish Civil War on the part of the Republicans – literarily designed in his novel “L’espoir”, 1937; German “Die Hope «), Partly also for direct political engagement (e.g. Aragon and Éluard within the communist party, R. Brasillach and P. Drieu la Rochelle on the side of the extreme political right). Check to see more about France and other countries in the world.


During the Second World War and the time of the occupation, literature increasingly became the expression of political ideas. Numerous writers (in addition to Aragon, Éluard and Malraux, among others J.-P. Sartre and A. Camus) joined the Resistance; the resistance was articulated literarily – more or less directly – mainly in poetry (including »Les yeux d’Elsa«, 1942; German »Elsas Augen«, from Aragon, and in the same year »Poésie et vérité 1942«; German »poetry and Truth 1942 ”, by Éluard), drama (“ Les mouches ”, 1943, German“ Die flies ”, by Sartre) and essay. The experience of war and resistance was decisive for the French Existential philosophy and the philosophy of the absurd, which, particularly represented by Sartre and Camus, also entered their literary work in the narrower sense of the word (in Sartre’s among other things in the novel “Les chemins de la liberté”, 1945-49, German “The ways of freedom «, And in the play» Huis clos «, 1945, German» Closed Society «; with Camus in the novel» L’étranger «, 1942, German» Der Fremde «, and the essay» Le mythe de Sisyphe «, 1942, German »The Myth of Sisyphus«). The individualistic approach of Sartre further developed in the direction of a (revolutionary) political and social practice (against the background of Marxist ideology) and literature understood accordingly in the sense of political engagement (»littérature engagée«). With Camus, the nihilistic experience of an absurd world became a humanitarian ethic without ideological ties (e.g. in the novel “La peste”, 1947; German “Die Pest”). Simone de Beauvoir linked the existentialism of Sartre with a reflection on the role of women in society (»Le deuxième sexe«, 1949; German »The opposite sex«) and thus became the leading theoretician of the women’s movement in the 20th century. Also important are her multi-part memoirs (including »Mémoires d’une jeune fille rangée«, 1958; German »Memoirs of a Daughter from a Good Home«) and her narrative (including »Les Mandarins«, 1954; German »Die Mandarins von Paris«, awarded the Prix Goncourt).

french literature

Important works of French literature (selection)

middle Ages

  • “Chanson de Roland” (around 1100; German “Rolandslied”, epic)

Renaissance / modern times

  • F. Rabelais: “Gargantua et Pantagruel” (1532–64; German “Gargantua and Pantagruel”, novel)
  • M. de Montaigne: “Les Essais” (1580, extended edition 1588 and 1589; German “Essays”)

17th century

  • P. Corneille: “Le Cid” (1637; German “Der Cid”, tragic comedy)
  • Molière: »Le misanthrope« (1667; German »Der misanthrope «, comedy)
  • F. de La Rochefoucauld: “Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales” (1665; German inter alia “reflections or moral sentences and maxims”)
  • J. Racine: »Phèdre« (1677; German »Phädra«, tragedy)

18th century

  • C. de Montesquieu: “Lettres persanes” (1721; German “Persische Briefe”, satirical epistolary novel)
  • Voltaire: “Candide ou l’optimisme” (1759; German “Candide or the optimism”, philosophical novel)
  • J.-J. Rousseau: “Julie ou la nouvelle Héloïse” (1761–64; German “Julie or the new Héloïse”, epistolary novel)

19th century

  • Stendhal: »Le rouge et le noir« (1830; German »Red and Black«, novel)
  • H. de Balzac: “Le père Goriot” (1835; German “Father Goriot”, novel)
  • C. Baudelaire: “Les fleurs du mal” (1857; German “The Flowers of Evil”, collection of poems)
  • G. Flaubert: “Madame Bovary” (1857; German, novel)
  • V. Hugo: »Les misérables« (1862; German »Die Elenden«, novel)
  • A. Rimbaud: “Une Saison en enfer” (1873; German “A time in hell”, prose poem)
  • É. Zola: »Nana« (1880; German, novel)

20th century

  • M. Proust: “À la recherche du temps perdu” (1913–27; German “In search of lost time”, series of novels)
  • A. Gide: “Les faux-monnayeurs” (1925; German “Die Falschmünzer”, novel)
  • A. Camus: “L’étranger” (1942; German “Der Fremde”, novel)
  • J.-P. Sartre: “Les chemins de la liberté” (1945–49; German “The Paths of Freedom”, novel cycle)
  • Françoise Sagan: »Bonjour tristesse« (1954; German, novel)
  • C. Simon: “La route des Flandres” (1960; German “The road in Flanders”, novel)
  • J.-MG Le Clézio: “Le chercheur d’or” (1985; German “Die Goldsucher”, novel)
  • Yasmina Reza: »L’ART« (1994; German »KUNST«, play)
  • J. Échenoz: »Je m’en vais« (1999; German »I’m going now«, novel)

21st century

  • P. Modiano: “Dans le café de la jeunesse perdue” 2007; German »In the café of the lost youth«, novel)
  • M. Houellebecq: “La carte et le territoire” (2010; German “Map and Territory”, novel)

French Literature From World War I 2