Collection: Julien Gracq

Julien Gracq (1910–2007) was born Louis Poirier in Saint-Florent-le-Vieil, a small village in western France. An excellent student and a voracious reader, he studied in Paris in the early 1930s, where he encountered the work of André Breton and the surrealists. His first book, Au Château d’Argol (The Castle of Argol, 1938) was praised by Breton as the first surrealist novel. In 1940, as a lieutenant in the French army, Gracq was captured by the Germans and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp in Silesia. Following the war and his release, he became a geography and history teacher at a lycée in Paris, where he remained for more than twenty years. He taught as Louis Poirier and wrote as Julien Gracq, a name that combined his favorite Stendhal character, Julien Sorel, and the Roman Gracchus brothers. Opposed to publicity and self-promotion, Gracq declined three requests from François Mitterand to dine at the president’s residence and refused the Prix Goncourt when he was awarded it for his 1951 novel Le Rivage des Syrtes (The Opposing Shore). Unmarried, in 1970 he retired from teaching and returned to his hometown, where he lived with his sister until her death in 1996. He continued writing throughout his life, publishing novels, plays, poetry, and literary criticism.

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