30 June, 2012

Roger Martin du Gard

Roger Martin du Gard was a French author and winner of the 1937 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Trained as a paleographer and archivist, Martin du Gard brought to his works a spirit of objectivity and a scrupulous regard for details. For his concern with documentation and with the relationship of social reality to individual development, he has been linked with the realist and naturalist traditions of the 19th century.

His major work was Les Thibault, a roman fleuve about the Thibault family, originally published as a series of eight novels. The story follows the fortunes of the two Thibault brothers, Antoine and Jacques, from their prosperous bourgeois upbringing, through the First World War, to their deaths. He also wrote a novel, Jean Barois, set in the historical context of the Dreyfus Affair. This novel was compared with Augustin ou le Maître est là of Joseph Malègue. There are two different attitudes in front of death (linked to the return to faith in the two novels for the two heroes) : Finally, "Augustin ou le Maître est là" sharply departs from "Jean Barois" in the dramatic and moral functions attributed to suffering. Barois' physical and mental anguish provokes a state of moral depression and a yearning for childhood coziness. Barois chooses to die in his native village, surrounded by familiar faces and familiar objects. But for Augustin suffering is an exalting experience which elevates him to the "icy zones" of spiritual mediation. It is no coïncidence that, unlike Barois, he chooses to die in a quintessential solitude, in the impersonal sickroom of a Swiss mountain sanatorium. The very attitude symbolizes a spiritual state capable of transmuting suffering into beauty.

During the Second World War, he resided in Nice, where he prepared a novel, which remained unfinished (Souvenirs du lieutenant-colonel de Maumort); an English-language translation of this unfinished novel was published in 2000.

Roger Martin du Gard died in 1958 and was buried in the Cimiez Monastery Cemetery in Cimiez, a suburb of the city of Nice, France.

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