Rolland, Romain (29 January 1866 – 30 December 1944)
Romain Rolland (29 January 1866 – 30 December 1944)
Louisiana State University—Shreveport
This entry was updated by Conway from her Rolland entry in DLB 65: French Novelists, 1900–1930.
SELECTED BOOKS: Les Origines du théâtre lyrique moderne. Histoire de l’opéra en Europe avant Lully et Scarlatti (Paris: A. Fontemoing, 1894; Paris: E. de Boccard, 1991);
Aërt (Paris: Cahiers de la Quinzaine, 1898);
Les Loups, as Saint-Just (Paris: Georges Bellais, 1898); translated by Barrett H. Clark as The Wolves (New York: Random House, 1937); translated by John Holmstrom as The Hungry Wolves (London & Glasgow: Blackie, 1966);
Le Triomphe de la raison (Paris: Revue d’Art Dramatique, 1899);
Danton (Paris: Revue d’Art Dramatique, 1900); translated in The Fourteenth of July and Danton (1918);
Millet, translated by Clementia Black (London: Duckworth / New York: Dutton, 1902);
Le Quatorze Juillet (Paris: Editions des Cahiers, 1902); translated in The Fourteenth of July and Danton (1918);
Le Temps viendra (Paris: Ollendorff, 1903);
Le Théâtre du peuple: Essai d’esthétique d’un théâtre nouveau (Paris: Suresnes, 1903); translated by Clark as The People’s Theater (New York: Holt, 1918; London: Allen & Unwin, 1919);
La Montespan (Paris: Editions de la Revue d’Art Dramatique, 1904); translated by Helena Van Brugh De Kay as The Montespan (New York: Heubsch, 1923; London: Jarrolds, 1927);
Jean-Christophe, part 1, 4 volumes (Paris: Ollendorff, 1905-1906)—comprises L’Aube, Le Matin, L’Adolescent, and La Révolte; translated by Gilbert Cannan as Jean-Christophe: Dawn, Morning, Youth, Revolt (New York: Holt, 1910); Cannan’s translation also published in 2 volumes as John Christopher: Dawn and Morning (London: Heinemann, 1910) and John Christopher: Storm and Stress (London: Heinemann, 1911);
Michel-Ange (Paris: Librairie de l’Art Ancien et Moderne, 1905); translated by Frederick Street as Michelangelo (New York: Duffield, 1915);
La Vie de Michel-Ange (Paris: Hachette, 1907); translated by Frederic Lees as The Life of Michael Angelo (New York: Dutton, 1912; London: Heinemann, 1912);
Vie de Beethoven (Paris: Hachette, 1907); translated by B. Constance Hull as Beethoven (London: Drane, 1907; New York: Holt, 1917);
Musiciens d’aujourd’hui (Paris: Hachette, 1908); translated by Mary Blaiklock as Musicians of To-day (New York: Holt, 1914; London: Kegan Paul, 1915):
Musiciens d’autrefois (Paris: Hachette, 1908; revised, 1908); translated by Blaiklock as Some Musicians of Former Days (New York: Holt, 1915; London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1915);
Jean-Christophe á Paris, part 2 of Jean-Christophe, 3 volumes (Paris: Ollendorff, 1908)—comprises La Foire sur la place, Antoinette, and Dans la maison; translated by Cannan as Jean-Christophe in Paris: The Marketplace, Antoinette, The House (New York: Holt, 1911); Cannan’s translation also published as John Christopher in Paris (London: Heinemann, 1911);
Théâtre de la Révolution (Paris: Hachette, 1909)—comprises Danton, Le Quatorze Juillet, and Les Loups;
Jean-Christophe. La Fin du voyage, part 3 of Jean-Christophe, 3 volumes (Paris: Ollendorff, 1910–1912)—comprises Les Amies, Le Buisson ardent, and La Nouvelle Journée; translated by Cannan as Jean-Christophe. Journey’s End: Love and Friendship, The Burning Bush, The New Dawn (New York: Holt, 1913); Cannan’s translation also published as John Christopher. Journey’s End (London: Heinemann, 1913);
Haendel (Paris: Alcan, 1910); translated by A. Edgefield Hull as Handel (London: Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1916; New York: Holt, 1916);
Vie de Tolstoï (Paris: Hachette, 1911); translated by Bernard Miall as Tolstoy (London: Unwin, 1911; New York: Dutton, 1911);
L’Humble vie héroïque: Pensées choisies (Paris: E. Sansot, 1912);
Les Tragédies de la foi (Paris: Hachette, 1913)—comprises Saint-Louis, Aërt, and Le Triomphe de la raison;
Au-dessus de la mêlée (Paris: A l’Emancipatrice, 1915); translated by C. K. Ogden as Above the Battle (Chicago: Open Court, 1916; London: Allen & Unwin, 1916);
Aux peuples assassinés (La Chaux-de Fonds: Edition des Jeunesses Socialistes Romandes, 1916);
Salut à la Révolution russe, by Rolland, P-J. Jouve, H. Guil-beaux, and F. Masereel (Geneva: Editions de la Revue Demain, 1917);
The Fourteenth of July and Danton: Two Plays of the French Revolution, translated by Clark (New York: Holt, 1918); The Fourteenth of July republished separately (London: Allen & Unwin, 1919);
Pierre et Luce (Paris: Ollendorff, 1918); translated by Charles de Kay as Pierre and Luce (New York: Holt, 1922);
Empédocle d’Agrigente el I’âge de la haine (Paris: La Maison Francaise, 1918); revised in Empédocle, suivi de L’Eclair de Spinoza (Paris: Editions du Sablier, 1931);
Colas Breugnon (Paris: Albin Michel, 1919); translated by Katherine Miller (New York: Holt, 1919); enlarged edition of original French version (Geneva: Edito-Service, 1971);
Liluli (Paris: Editions du Sablier, 1919); translated (New York: Boni & Liveright, 1920);
Les Précurseurs (Paris: Editions de l’Humanité, 1919); translated by Eden and Cedar Paul as The Forerunners (London: Allen & Unwin, 1920; New York: Brace & Howe, 1920);
Voyage musical aux pays du passé (Paris: Hachette, 1920); translated by Miall as A Musical Tour through the Land of the Past (New York: Holt, 1922);
Clerambault: Histoire d’une conscience libre pendant la guerre (Paris: Albin Michel, 1920); translated by Miller as Clerambault: The Story of an Independent Spirit during the War (New York: Holt, 1921); Miller’s translation republished as Clerambault, or One Against All (London: Jackson, Wylie, 1933);
La Révolte des machines; ou, La Pensée déchaînée (Paris: Editions du Sablier, 1921); translated by William A. Drake as The Revolt of the Machines; or, Invention Run Wild: A Motion Picture Scenario (Ithaca, N.Y.: Dragon Press, 1932);
Les Vaincus (Antwerp: Editions Lumiére, 1922);
L’Ame enchantée, part 1, Annette et Sylvie (Paris: Ollendorff, 1922); translated by Ben Ray Redman as Annette and Sylvie (New York: Holt, 1925; London: Butterworth, 1927);
L’Ame enchantée, part 2, L’Eté (Paris: Ollendorff, 1923); translated by Eleanor Stimson and Van Wyck Brooks as Summer (New York: Holt, 1925; London: Butterworth, 1927);
Mahatma Gandhi (Zurich: Rotapfel-Verlag, 1924): revised and enlarged (Paris: Delamain, Boutelleau, 1924); translated by Catherine D. Groth as Mahatma Gandhi, The Man who Became One with the Universal Being (New York & London: Century, 1924; London: Swathmore, 1924);
Le Jeu de l’amour et de la mart (Paris: Editions du Sablier, 1925); translated by Eleanor Stimson Brooks as The Game of Love and Death (New York: Holt, 1926);
Pâques fleuries (Paris: Editions du Sablier, 1926); translated by Eugene Löhrke as Palm Sunday (New York: Holt, 1928);
L’Ame enchantée, part 3, Mère et fils, 2 volumes (Paris: Albin Michel, 1927); translated by Van Wyck Brooks as Mother and Son (New York: Holt, 1927; London: Butterworth, 1927);
Les Léonides (Paris: Editions du Sablier, 1928); translated by Löhrke (New York: Holt, 1929);
Souvenirs d’enfance (La Charité-sur-Loire: Delayance, 1928);
Beethoven: Les Grandes Epoques créatrices, 7 volumes (Paris: Editions du Sablier, 1928–1945); volume 1, De l’Heroïique á l’Appasionata, translated by Ernest Newman as Beethoven the Creator (London: Gollancz, 1929; New York: Harper, 1929);
Essai sur la mystique et l’action de l’Inde vivante, 2 volumes (Paris: Stock, Delamain & Boutelleau, 1929-1930); volume 1 translated by E. F. Malcolm-Smith as The Life of Ramakrishna (Mayavati, Almora, Himalayas: Advaita Ashrama, 1929; Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1986); Malcolm-Smith’s translation republished as Prophets of the New India (New York: Boni, 1930; London: Cassell, 1930); volume 2 republished as The Life of Vivekananda and the Universal Gospel (Mayavati, Almora, Himalayas: Advaita Ashrama, 1931);
Paroles de Renan à un adolescent (Paris: Editions de la Belle Page, 1930);
Goethe et Beethoven (Paris: Editions du Sablier, 1930); translated by G. A. Pfister and E. S. Kemp (New York & London: Harper, 1931);
Jean-Christophe, definitive edition, 5 volumes (Paris: Albin Michel, 1931–1934);
A Declaration by Romain Rolland, address to the World Congress against War, Amsterdam 1932 (New York: American Committee for Struggle Against War, 1932);
L’Ame enchantée, part 4, L’Annonciatrice, published as La Mort d’un monde (Paris: Albin Michel, 1933) and L’Enfantement, 2 volumes (Paris: Albin Michel, 1933); translated by Amalia De Alberti as The Death of a World (New York: Holt, 1933; London: Butterworth, 1933); and A World in Birth (New York: Holt, 1934);
L’Ame enchantée, definitive edition, 4 volumes (Paris: Albin Michel, 1934);
Quinze Ans de combat, 1919–1934 (Paris: Rieder, 1935); translated by K. S. Shelvanker as I Will Not Rest (London: Selwyn & Blount, 1935; New York: Liveright, 1937);
Par la revolution, la paix (Paris: Editions Sociales Internationales, 1935);
Compagnons de route, essais littéraires (Paris: Editions du Sablier, 1936);
Valmy (Paris: Editions Sociales Internationales, 1938);
Robespierre (Paris: Albin Michel, 1939);
Le Voyage intérieur (Paris: Albin Michel, 1942); translated by Elsie Pell as Journey Within (New York: Philosophical Library, 1947); revised and enlarged edition of original French version (Paris: Albin Michel, 1959);
Péguy, 2 volumes (Paris: Albin Michel, 1945);
Le Seuil, précédé du Royaume du T (Geneva: Editions du Mont-Blanc, 1946);
Le Périple (Paris: Emile-Paul, 1946);
De “Jean-Christophe” à “Colas Breugnon”; Pages de journal (Paris: Editions du Salon Carré, 1946);
Souvenirs de jeunesse (1866–1900); Pages choisies (Lausanne: Guilde du Livre, 1947);
Essays on Music, edited by David Ewen (New York: Allen, Towne & Heath, 1948);
Les Aimées de Beethoven (Paris: Editions du Sablier, 1949);
Inde: Journal 1915–1943; Tagore, Gandhi, Nehru et les problèmes indiens (Paris: Editions Vineta, 1951; enlarged, Paris: Albin Michel, 1960);
Journal des années de guerre 1914–1919 (Paris: Albin Michel, 1952);
Le Cloître de la rue d’Ulm, journal de Romain Rolland à l’Ecole normale (1886–1889) suivide Quelques lettres à sa màre et de Credo quia verum, Cahiers Romain Rolland, no. 4 (Paris: Albin Michel, 1952);
French Thought in the Eighteenth Century, presented by Romain Rolland, André Maurois, and Edouard Herriot, with an introduction by Geoffrey Brereton (New York: D. McKay, 1953);
Mémoires et fragments de journal (Paris: Albin Michel, 1956);
Beethoven, les grandes époques créatrices, definitive edition (Paris: Albin Michel, 1966);
Les tragédies de la foi: Saint Louis, Aërt, Le temps viendra (Paris: Albin Michel, 1970);
Théâtre de la révolution, 2 volumes, Chefs-d’oeuvre de Romain Rolland (Evreux, France: Distribué par le Cercle du bibliophile, 1972)—comprises 1. Pâques fleurie, Le 14 juillet, and Les loups.—2. Le triomphe de la raison, Le Jeu de l’amour et de la mart, and Danton;
Voyage á Moscou (juin-juillet 1935); suivi de, Notes complémentaires (octobre-décembre 1938), Cahiers Romain Rolland, no. 29 (Paris: Albin Michel, 1992);
Le théâtre du peuple, edited by Chantal Meyer-Plantureux (Brussels: Complexe, 1993);
Mahatma Gandhi, definitive edition (Paris: Stock, 1993).
PLAY PRODUCTIONS: Aërt, Paris, Théâtre de l’Oeuvre, 3 May 1898;
Morituri, Paris, Théâtre de l’Oeuvre, 18 May 1898;
Le Triomphe de la raison, Paris, Théâtre de l’Oeuvre, 21 June 1899;
Danton, Paris, Théâtre Civique, 30 December 1900;
Le Quatorze Juillet, Paris, Théâtre de la Renaissance Gémier, 21 March 1902;
Le Jeu de l’amour et de la mart, Paris, Théâtre de l’Odéon, 29 January 1928.
OTHER: Encyclopédie de la musique et dictionnaire du conservatoire, 11 volumes, volumes 2 and 3 include contributions by Rolland (Paris: Delagrave, 1913–1931);
Maurice Stendhal, Vies de Hayden, de Mozart, et de Métatase, preface by Romain Rolland (Paris: Champion, 1914);
Marcelle Capy, Une Voix de femme dans la melee, preface by Rolland (Paris: Ollendorff, 1916);
Ananda Coomaraswamy, La Danse de Civa: Quatorze essais sur l’lnde, translated from the English by Madeleine Rolland, preface by Rolland (Paris: Reider, 1922);
La jeune Inde, recueil d’articles de Mahatma Gandhi, 1919–1922, translated by Hélène Hart, introduction by Rolland (Paris: Stock, 1924);
Vie de M.-K. Gandhi, écrite par lui-même, preface by Rolland, Europe, 25 (January–April 1931): 465–490;
Maksim Gor’ky, Eux et nous, preface by Rolland (Paris: Editions Sociales Internationales, 1931);
“Un Message de Romain Rolland … : Faisons face à l’ennemi,” address to the Brussels Peace Conference, L’Humanité (6 and 11 September 1936);
Nicolas Ostrovski, Et l’acier fut trempé, translated from the Russian by V. Feldman, preface by Rolland (Paris: Editions Sociales Internationales, 1936);
Les Pages immortelles de Rousseau, choisies et expliquées par Romain Rolland (Paris: Corréa / New York: Longmans, Green, 1938); translated by Julie Kernan as The Living Thoughts of Rousseau presented by Romain Rolland (New York & Toronto: Longmans, Green, 1939);
“A Rilke. Souvenir de son voisin,” in Rilke et la France, essays and memoirs by Edmond Jaloux and others (Paris: Plon, 1942);
Alexeï Remizov, La Maison Bourkov, translated from the Russian by Robert and Zénitta Vivier, preface by Rolland (Paris: Editions de Pavois, 1946).
PERIODICAL PUBLICATIONS: Saint Louis, Revue de Paris (1 March 1897): 87–137; (15 March): 358–395; (15 April 1897): 571–593;
“La Musique en Allemagne au dix-huitiéme siécle,” Revue de Paris (15 February 1906): 852–882;
Les Trois Amoureuses, Revue d’Art Dramatique et Musical, 21 (1906): 169–191, 249–275, 333–348;
“Shakespeare. Pour le tricentenaire de la mort du poéte,” Journal de Genéve (17 April 1916);
“Déclaration de l’Indépendance de l’Esprit,” Humanité (26 June 1919);
“Du rôle de l’écrivain dans la société d’aujourd’hui,” Commune, 2 (May 1935): 929–935;
“Retour de Moscou,” Commune, 3 (October 1935): 129–133;
“Nécessité de la révolution,” Europe, 50 (15 July 1939):289–302;
“Message to the International Music Congress, 1939, New York,” Musical Quarterly, 25 (October 1939): 510–512;
“Mon Séjour chez Gorki,” Lettres Françaises (March 1960).
Romain Rolland’s tremendous output of plays, novels, music criticism, biographies, polemics, and correspondence has secured for him a place not only in French literary history but also in European letters and thought. Well known and widely read in his day, he was the apostle of an idealism that in many ways seems naive to modern audiences. Although still read, much of his writing seems dated. Readers are no longer shocked by illegitimacy, pacifism, or communism, and enough time has passed since the world wars so that the sense of immediacy needed to appreciate much of Rolland’s work has vanished. Yet, perhaps it is for these reasons that Rolland will be remembered, because his work stands as a reflection of the complex and conflicting issues of the world in which he lived.
During his lifetime and for several years after his death, Rolland commanded a tremendous popular and intellectual following. In 1926 a special issue of the journal Europe was devoted to the writer in honor of his sixtieth birthday. Ten years later the newspapers were full of details about a special celebration—” Hommage de la France à Romain Rolland”—in honor of his seventieth birthday. L’Humanité reported that thousands were turned away because of the overwhelming turnout. André Gide presided over the event, which included speeches and coordinated meetings of various clubs also honoring Rolland. A year after his death a book of collected essays, tributes, and poems was published under the title of Hommages á Romain Rolland. In 1955 and again in 1965, Europe dedicated special issues to Rolland.
Rolland’s dedication to pacifism and his belief in the spirit of internationalism ensured his continuing popularity during the decade of the 1960s. The 1965 issue of Europe included the schedule for a week of radio programming devoted to Rolland’s life and works. A huge celebration was held in Moscow in 1966 honoring the one-hundredth anniversary of the writer’s birth. A book written in collaboration by two of Russia’s foremost Rolland scholars was published to commemorate the event. Included in the volume was a list of all the publications on Rolland scheduled to appear in 1966 for the jubilee. For that single year in the U.S.S.R. alone there were 159 entries covering Rolland’s musical works, his political writings, and his novels. By 1969 more than three million copies of Rolland’s works had appeared in Russian. Although political changes have weakened Rolland’s appeal in the countries of the former Soviet Union, international critical interest in Rolland continues to the present, and translations of his works into Japanese, Korean, Chinese, as well as European languages appear at a steady rate.
Romain Edmé Paul Emile Rolland was born on 29 January 1866 in Clamecy, France, in the department of Nièvre. His father, Emile Rolland, a native of one of the small neighboring towns, carried on the family tradition and was a highly esteemed, fourth-generation notary. His mother, Antoinette-Marie Courot Rolland, was the daughter of a local family of farmers and notaries who had lived in the area for several generations. Of highly disparate natures, the separate influences of Rolland’s parents are quite evident in Rolland’s life and works. His father belonged to the old French bourgeoisie that was intensely republican; his ancestors had been ardent revolutionaries. Emile Rolland was well known around town and enjoyed his position, a strikingly different attitude from that of his wife. She was of a retiring nature and preferred devotion and religious piety to worldly distractions. The tendency toward religious introspection that she bequeathed to her son along with a great love of music had a lasting influence on Rolland’s intellectual formation.
Rolland had two sisters. Both were named Madeleine, and both of them played significant roles in his life. The first Madeleine was two years younger than her brother. She died in June of 1871, when she was three, after suffering six hours of agony, caused presumably by diphtheria. The specter of death haunted young Rolland, intensified by the fact of his own delicate health and a weakness of the lungs inherited from his mother’s side of the family. He never outgrew his physical infirmities: illness plagued him throughout his life.
If Madeleine’s death was a shock to Rolland, it was a crushing blow to Antoinette-Marie Rolland, who brooded for years over the loss of her child. When a second daughter was born to her the next year, she named the baby Madeleine, for the first Madeleine had appeared to her in a vision shortly before the birth. This new daughter does not seem to have lessened the mother’s grief. She did, however, offer companionship to Rolland, whom she helped considerably in later life because of her English scholarship.
Roland’s childhood years at Clamecy were important. From his own testimony, the most distinguishing feature of the very old town was its tranquility. The surrounding countryside of gently rolling green, the ancient houses, and the old church of St. Martin all radiated peace and calm. In this peaceful environment Rolland as a sickly child built up a comfortable dreamworld. If at times the world around him seemed to hold him like a prison, freedom was found in books, in music, and in the promise of the canal that flowed next to the house where he lived. When the barges passed by, Rolland could imagine himself on them, escaping to discover the rest of the world. Music was perhaps the best freedom. The works of Ludwig van Beethoven and of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart helped him transcend the parameters of his own existence and gave him a taste of the sublime. Even the homey music of the bells of St. Martin was a cause for joy and a symbol of liberty. In the library Rolland built a fortress of dreams; in a ring of chairs which he arranged in a magic circle he made the acquaintance of William Shakespeare and other authors. Schooling at Clamecy, however, fell short of what Antoinette-Marie Rolland desired for her son. Her plan to send him to school in Paris did not include the delicate Romain facing the capital alone, so she engineered the relocation of the entire family, a move that took place in October 1880.
The world of Paris presented a rude awakening for the sheltered boy from the Nivernais. The city seemed to him full of corruption and decay, underscored no doubt by his continuing preoccupation with death. He endured two desperately unhappy academic years at the Lycée Saint-Louis where he passed two baccalauréat examinations. In the fall of 1882 Rolland entered the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. There he spent the next four years preparing for the Ecole Normale Supérieure. His classmates at Louis-le-Grand included Paul Claudel and André Suarés, with whom he attended concerts. During this time he developed no close friendships, nor was he inspired by any of his professors. His love of music became a passion that lifted him periodically out of his unhappiness. He heartily defended Richard Wagner, reveled anew in Beethoven, and was enraptured by the force of a full symphony orchestra. He also discovered Benedict de Spinoza, renewed his acquaintance with Shakespeare, and, much to his mother’s anguish, renounced his faith. Academically, he was only a moderately successful student. Twice he failed the entrance examinations before he was admitted to the Ecole Normale in November of 1886.
Although Rolland had begun his studies in philosophy, he chose history and geography as the subjects for his second year, thinking that they would offer him a greater scope than the set philosophy and literature courses. Perceiving definite patterns in history, he arrived at a belief he repeatedly held and abandoned during his life that time is nonlinear: past, present, and future exist concurrently. During this period he also developed his ideas on heroism and decided to contact those whom he considered to be living heroes. Among these were Ernest Renan, Edmond de Goncourt, Henrik Ibsen, and Leo Tolstoy. While his results were somewhat less than satisfactory, he eventually received a long letter from Tolstoy, whose works affected him greatly.
Most of his third year at the Ecole Normale was spent working diligently to prepare for the history agrégation, which he passed, placing eighth, in August 1889. Despite all his efforts to that end, Rolland hated the prospect of teaching. When an appointment opened up at the Ecole Française d’Archéologie de Rome, he reluctantly decided to accept the post. The two years he spent in Rome proved to be the happiest, and some of the healthiest, of his life.
His research took up only a portion of his time, and he profited from his freedom to learn about Rome and himself. His quite considerable pianistic talent was recognized, and he was soon a desired guest at many official and private dinners. In January 1890 he met Malwida von Maysenbug who, despite the forty-eight-year difference in their ages, became his great friend, confidante, and mentor. She was an idealist who believed in such causes as the emancipation of women, and she numbered among her close friends many great men, including Wagner and Friedrich Nietzsche. She and Rolland carried on a voluminous correspondence until her death in 1903. At von Maysenbug’s apartment he also made the acquaintance of two sisters, Antonietta and Sofia Guerrieri-Gonzaga. Seeing the elder girl yawn during one of their conversations, Rolland turned his attention to the younger Sofia. Only sixteen at the time and rather shy, she provided Rolland with material for his dreamworld and inspired many of his later creations.
During these two years in Rome he decided to write plays. His first, “Empédocle,” was never finished. “Orsino,” completed but never published, inspired by the character in Twelfth Night, is notable for the idea expressed in the last line, where the hero dies shouting “Death does not exist!” Rolland began a third play, “Les Baglioni,” but before it was finished, he left Italy in July 1891 in the company of Malwida von Maysenbug.
Back in Paris, Rolland once again faced the prospect of teaching, this time postponed by a year’s leave of absence on the grounds of poor health. He finished “Les Baglioni” in October. In January and February he wrote a play in verse, “Niobé,” then started on a fifth drama, “Caligula.” He took his wares to most of the theaters in Paris only to meet refusals and rejection everywhere. His failures were not only literary. He also applied for posts at the Bibliothèque Nationale, the Luxembourg Museum, and the Louvre and was turned down in every case. His emotional life was more successful. On 11 April 1892 he dined at the home of a professor of classical philology at the Collége de France. There he met the professor’s daughter, Clotilde Bréal. They had a deep love of music in common, and her playing of Wagner commanded Rolland’s respect. Perhaps part of Clotilde’s attraction was the fact that she was Jewish, and Rolland had become passionately aware of the persecution of the Jews during his stay in Rome. Although he had developed a close friendship with Suarés, also Jewish, during their years at the Ecole Normale, Rolland later admitted that at the time of meeting Clotilde he knew very little about Judaism. Experiencing a desire to make reparations for society’s anti-Semitic attitudes, Rolland offered his hand and his heart. They were married without a religious ceremony on 31 October 1892. The next month they left Paris for Rome, where Rolland was on a brief official mission for the Ecole des Beaux Arts, thanks to the intervention of Clotilde’s father.
During the six months that the couple remained in Rome, Rolland carried on research for the doctoral thesis that his father-in-law had made a condition of the marriage. When the couple returned to Paris, Rolland taught a course in art history first at the Lycée Henri IV, then in 1894–1895 at Louis-le-Grand. Meanwhile, he was working on his dissertation, Les Origines du théâtre lyrique moderne. Histoire de l’opéra en Europe avant Lully et Scarlatti (The Origins of Modern Lyric Theater. History of European Opera before Lully and Scarlatti), published in 1894. In 1895 he received the degree of docteur és lettres.In 1894–1895 he also taught a course on morals at the Ecole Jean-Baptiste Say. While assaying the traditional views of ethical behavior, he began to codify his own ideas about social responsibility that would play such a great part in his life and writings. In November of 1895, he began teaching art history at the Ecole Normale, where he stayed until he was transferred to the Sorbonne in 1903. Never having desired to be a professor, he found that his professional duties did not bring him a great deal of satisfaction, nor did they provide financial independence. Rolland complained unhappily in a letter written in 1896 to his friend Suarès of having to live off his wife’s dowry.
Teaching and work on his dissertation did not keep him from doing what to him was truly important-writing plays. In July of 1893 he finished “Caligula.” The first six months of 1894 he spent working on its twin, “Le Siége de Mantoue” (The Siege of Mantua). He continued his struggle to get his work published or produced. The Comédie-Française turned down “Niobé,” the Revue de Paris rejected “Les Baglioni,” and the Mercure de France refused “Le Siége de Mantoue.” Not one of his five earliest plays was ever produced or published. Early in 1896 Clotilde Rolland intervened and sent Saint-Louis, a tragedy written between September 1894 and August 1895, to Jules Lemaître, who, with difficulty, had it accepted by the Revue de Paris. It took a year before the play appeared and, when it did, critical reception was less than favorable.
A two-month visit to Germany in the summer of 1896 was the catalyst for two projects that had long been in the planning stage. That fall he began writing Aërt, another play, and Jean-Christophe, a long, multi-volume novel which he correctly foresaw would take him years to finish. Both portray the struggle of a hero against the world. The play, as well as two others Rolland undertook shortly afterward, Le Triomphe de la raison (1899, The Triumph of Reason) and Les Vaincus (The Vanquished; published in unfinished form in 1922), ends in the suicide of the protagonist. Aërt was accepted by the Théâtre de l’Oeuvre in June 1897 and performed one night only, on 3 May 1898, to a moderately receptive audience. His next play, staged as Morituri but known by its published title, Les Loups (1898), was produced at the same theater fifteen days later and elicited a considerably different reaction.
Les Loups (1898; translated as The Wolves, 1937), published under the pseudonym Saint-Just, a figure of the French Revolution much admired by Rolland, is set in Mainz in 1793 and portrays the conflict between justice and the good of the state. The principal characters include Quesnel, a commissioner of the Convention, and three officers in the Republican army—an academician, a former butcher, and a former aristocrat. A spy is caught, and he accuses the former nobleman, d’Oyron, of treason. By the close of the play, the other three characters know the charge is false, but d’Oyron is executed nevertheless—in the best interests of the country.
Rolland expected to provoke his audience with this deliberate echo of the Dreyfus affair, which had caused a great amount of social and political furor. Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish captain in the French army, was accused of divulging military secrets to the Germans. In December of 1894 Dreyfus was convicted in a secret court-martial and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island. Many prominent people, including Emile Zola, believed that a great injustice had been committed, and they led a protest that finally ended in 1906 when a later trial vindicated Dreyfus. In the meanwhile, France was torn between those who supported the army, those who fought against the persecution of the Jews, and others who believed that justice had been ignored. Rolland himself had not always been in full support of the captain. He later changed sides, although, other than writing Les Loups, he never took an active part in the controversy surrounding the affair.
Reactions to the play were not what Rolland had expected. By his own admission, he intended the play to be a glorification of France, great no matter what the circumstances, not a show of support for Dreyfus. In fact, the play angered the military, thrilled liberals and socialists, and left the Jews unsatisfied. But, at last, his work attracted some attention.
Rolland himself seems to have found inspiration in the work. During the summer following the production of the play, he conceived the idea for a whole cycle of plays about the French Revolution, of which Les Loups and a play written earlier, Le Triomphe de la raison, would be a part. Full of enthusiasm, Rolland set to work on a new piece, Danton, of which he finished the first version in November 1898. He read the play to his wife and her father, who were in no way encouraging. His father-in-law, a practical man, criticized Rolland’s passion for writing plays in general and professed a concern over Rolland’s obsession with the Revolution, which he considered to have a disturbing influence.
The breach in ideas was a serious one. By the summer of 1900, Rolland and his wife were spending long periods of time apart. In February 1901 Rolland officially separated from Clotilde and moved in temporarily with his parents. Their divorce became final in May of the same year. The difficulties in his emotional life did not dampen his enthusiasm for the plays about the French Revolution. Rolland revised Danton (1900) and wrote yet another play, Le Quatorze Juillet (1902; translated as The Fourteenth of July, 1918). From 1898 to 1902 all four of the revolutionary plays were produced, and requests for translations reached Rolland from Italy, Russia, and Germany. The Revolution, however, was not Rolland’s only preoccupation. He suffered severe health problems during this period, including tuberculosis and heart trouble. He was still extremely busy. He wrote articles of musical criticism for several journals, principally the Revue de Paris. From 1901 to 1903 he taught courses in music history at two successive girls’ schools in addition to the course he was still teaching at the Ecole Normale. Despite all his efforts, he was still terribly poor. He lived the solitary life of a hermit in the tiny apartment where he read, studied, played the piano, and began to write something other than plays. He began in earnest a biography of Beethoven and renewed his efforts on his long-contemplated novel, Jean-Christophe.
Vie de Beethoven (1907; translated as Beethoven, 1907), the first of three books Rolland designated his “Vies des hommes illustres” (Lives of Illustrious Men), was first published in Cahiers de la Quinzaine (January and September 1903) under the auspices of Charles Péguy, as had been the case for three of the revolutionary plays. The biography was rather short, concentrating on Beethoven as a man and on his life rather than on Beethoven as a composer. Beethoven was one of Rolland’s personal heroes, and the composer’s life demonstrated how a great man could control sorrow, specifically sorrow associated with physical suffering. Written for a popular audience, the work was well received.
In February 1904 the first part of Rolland’s best-known work, Jean-Christophe, was published in Cahiers de la Quinzaine.The novel occupied much of the next nine years of the author’s life. Before publication in ten volumes by the Parisian firm Ollendorff (1905–1912), it appeared in seventeen installments in the Cahiers: L’Aube (Dawn) and Le Matin (Morning), February 1904; L’Adolescent (The Adolescent), January 1905; La Révolte (Revolt), November 1906-January 1907; La Foire sur la place (The Fair in the Square), March 1908; Antoinette, March 1908; Dans la maison (In the House), February 1909; Les Amies (The Friends), January-February 1910; Le Buisson ardent (The Burning Bush), October-November 1911; La Nouvelle Journée (The New Day), October 1912. From 1910 to 1913 Gilbert Cannan’s three-volume English translation of the entire saga appeared under the titles Jean-Christophe: Dawn, Morning, Youth, Revolt (1910), Jean-Christophe in Paris: The Marketplace, Antoinette, The House (1911), and Jean-Christophe. Journey’s End: Love and Friendship, The Burning Bush, The New Dawn (1913).
Jean-Christophe is the life story of a late-nineteenth-century German musician, Jean-Christophe Kraft. L’Aube begins with the infancy of the title character, and his parents and surroundings are shown through the perceptions of a baby. The next three volumes follow Christophe through his childhood and formative years to the threshold of manhood. His musical genius is apparent early and he is eager to get out into the world, but his widowed mother begs him to stay with her. His energies are devoted to composing, and he begins to chafe against the restrictive, conventional ideas of music. Because of an altercation with some German soldiers, Christophe is forced to flee his native land and go to Paris to make his fortune as a musician, composer, and pianist.
Volumes five, six, seven, and part of eight are all set in Paris. Rolland makes use of his German hero’s visit to France to criticize many aspects of German and French society. La Foire sur la place is a bitter critique of the literary and artistic circles of Paris. In this volume Christophe comes face-to-face with the cultural world of Paris and is disgusted by the corruption he finds there. Overwhelmed, he is unaware of the chaste love he has inspired in one of his music students, a young Italian girl, Grazia, based on Sofia Guerrieri-Gonzaga. Neither he nor his music finds acceptance in the world of fashionable music, so he withdraws and concentrates on composition. He nearly starves to death. Then he meets Olivier Jeannin, a sensitive, refined, finely built intellectual, the French counterpart to the best of German enthusiasm that Christophe represents. Volume six, Antoinette, tells the story of the early lives of Olivier and his sister Antoinette, whom Christophe had met once in Germany. In Dans la maison, volume seven, the two young men, now best friends, have moved in together, and, from Olivier, Christophe learns to appreciate the good side of French culture. Olivier also teaches his friend to understand and feel affection for the common people. Later, in volume eight, Olivier’s marriage and Christophe’s success cause the two to drift apart. Christophe discovers that his mysterious benefactor is none other than Grazia, now the wife of an Austrian ambassador. It is now Christophe’s turn to fall in love, but she feels only friendship for him and leaves with her husband for America. In volume nine, Le Buisson ardent, after the failure of Olivier’s marriage, Olivier and Christophe are together again and become involved in political unrest. During a May Day riot, Olivier is seriously wounded, and Christophe kills a policeman and is forced to flee. Friends spirit him out of the country to Switzerland, where he receives word that Olivier has died. Grief robs him of his creative genius until another crisis reawakens his creativity. In the last volume, La Nouvelle Journee, an aged Christophe has returned to Paris, and there he finds success, friendship, and affection. New sorrows assail the old composer, but he can face these now because of his previous experiences.
Jean-Christophe is a story of heroes and moral responsibilities. Like the “illustrious men” about whom Rolland was writing at the same time, Christophe and Olivier are models to be followed. Rolland meant for their attitudes and their ways of learning and dealing with problems to be examples for his readers. The two main characters are both biographical and autobiographical. Rolland called Christophe his “shadow”; Olivier—with the intentional echo of Roland and Olivier from La Chanson de Roland— was his double. Closely modeled upon Rolland’s greatest personal hero, Christophe resembles Beethoven, particularly in the first three volumes of Jean-Christophe, in which details are borrowed directly from Beethoven’s early life. Christophe is a musical genius, and, as such, he represents the musician that Rolland wished to have been, the novelist’s fantasized self. Olivier is closer to Rolland’s real self, but both figures put their beliefs into action, something that Rolland advocated unceasingly, although he never quite managed to do so himself. He was always too busy writing.
From the time the first volumes were published, Jean-Christophe attracted both public and critical attention. Critics admired the musical arrangement of the book; the story line was popular among more-general readers. Because of its biting social criticism, La Foire sur la place was less well received, as were some of the later volumes, but critical opinion was generally favorable up to the beginning of World War I. Then the tide was swayed by a change in public opinion which, with the advent of the war, turned more patriotic and nationalistic, and the German Jean-Christophe was no longer acceptable as a hero or as a critic of French society. After the war the series regained its admirers, and it remains Rolland’s most popular work.
While writing Jean-Christophe, Rolland kept up his habit of working on several projects simultaneously. He continued writing articles on musicology and in 1908 produced two books on musicians: Musiciens d’aujourd’hui and Musiciiens d’autefois (translated as Musicians of To-day, 1914, and Some Musicians of Former Days, 1915). He became interested in Michelangelo and wrote two books on the artist. Michel-Ange (1905; translated as Michelangelo, 1915) was an analysis of the Italian’s works. La Vie de Michel-Ange, the second of the “Vies des hommes illustres,” appeared the next year in Cahiers de la Quinzaine, was published by Hachette in 1907, and was translated as The Life of Michael Angelo in 1912. This biography shows how the great artist dealt with a type of sorrow much different from that of Beethoven. Michelangelo’s tragedy was that he was born with the spirit of discontent against which he had to struggle constantly. Since the struggle was not successful, Michelangelo’s life had no consolation, although it showed great heroism.
In Rolland’s own life there had been some consolation. In 1905 he received the Vie Heureuse Prize, and in 1909 he was named to the Légion d’Honneur. His writing was finally earning recognition. On 28 October 1910 Rolland was run over by an automobile. He spent the next three months in bed and convalesced slowly in Italy and then in France. With the intention of writing an article, he spent some of his time rereading Tolstoy, who had died in December of 1910. The article developed into a book, and the third biography of the “Vies des hommes illustres,” Vie de Tolstoï, was published both in Paris and in English translation as Tolstoy in New York during 1911. Tolstoy’s form of heroic suffering differs from that of Rolland’s other heroes, for this hero has chosen his lot for himself. The biography won the approval of Tolstoy’s family for its sympathetic portrayal of the Russian writer who had so inspired Rolland in his youth.
Primarily because of the accident, Rolland had been on leave from the Sorbonne for two years when he submitted his resignation in July 1912 in order to devote himself more fully to his literary efforts. The completion of Jean-Christophe was liberating—“En me séparant de Christophe je n’éprouve … qu’un sentiment de délivrance” (Separating myself from Christophe, I experience only a feeling of deliverance). Rolland went back to Switzerland in April of the following year. He stayed there for six months and relaxed by writing Colas Breugnon (published and translated into English in 1919). This novel, whose title character might have been one of Rolland’s own forebears, portrays the bon-vivant attitudes of the paternal side of his family. During his stay in Switzerland, the Académie Française awarded Rolland the Grand Prix de Littérature. He was not particularly enthusiastic over winning the prize. His mind was becoming increasingly preoccupied with philosophical and social concerns.
The beginning of 1914 marked a change in Rolland’s literary output. For the next four years he put aside most of his creative writing and concentrated on spreading his ideas of internationalism. After a few months in Paris, he had returned to Switzerland and was there when war broke out. Exempt from military service by reasons of age and ill health, he decided to stay in Switzerland. Though at first he joined in the general exultation at the declaration of war, he began to decry the destruction that it entailed. He clung to the illusion of the possibility of an honorable war with the opponents Germany and France able to respect each other despite differences of opinion. He believed that a spirit of internationalism, a united brotherhood of citizens of every country, was more important than nationalist distinctions, and to further this doctrine, he wrote the most famous of his wartime articles, “Au-dessus de la mêlée” (Above the Battle). The title was the cause of much misinterpretation by those who saw in it Rolland vaunting his own superiority or underscoring the aloofness of his life in Switzerland. The main point of the article was that young men were dying in vain and that it was up to the European elite to rise above the call of nationalism and build a city whose consciousness would be free from the injustice and chauvinism of individual nations, a refuge for liberated souls of all nations. Rolland appealed to fellow intellectuals to demonstrate for peace instead of making war and thus became a figurehead of pacifism for the next several years.
“Au-dessus de la mêlée” and many of his other numerous wartime articles were first published in the Journal de Genéve, but in November 1915 they were collected in a book published in Paris bearing the title of the best-known essay. The book raised a storm of protest in France. It was officially denounced, its author ostracized, and, for a while, the circulation of the essays was prohibited. Rolland was undaunted. Sales of the book went to benefit the Agence Internationale des Prisonniers de Guerre, located in Geneva and organized under the auspices of the International Red Cross. Deeply devoted to the purposes of the International Red Cross, Rolland’s energies were dedicated to the agency from October 1914 to July 1915.
On the basis of several articles from Above the Battle (1916), his works on Tolstoy and Beethoven, and particularly Jean-Christophe, Rolland was recommended for the 1915 Nobel Prize in Literature. The Committee carefully considered his candidacy but decided that his writing was of uneven quality and too full of contradictory sentiments and ideas. In any event, the Committee decided to delay the award—as it had with the 1914 prize that was still pending because of the war—and the prize was tabled until the following year. By that time, Rolland’s reputation and his support had grown, and on 9 November 1916 the committee decided in Rolland’s favor. He was awarded the 1915 Nobel Prize in Literature “as a tribute to the lofty idealism of his literary production and to the sympathy and love of truth with which he has described different types of human beings.” Rolland’s first reaction was to renounce the award, but in the end he accepted because it brought honor to France, and he could donate the prize money to the International Red Cross and several French charities.
After giving up his work with the Agence Internationale, Rolland left Geneva for other Swiss residences and returned once more to creative writing. In 1916 he conceived and began a novel about a new type of hero not cast in the traditional heroic mold. Clerambault is a quiet little man whose struggle takes place in the realm of thought rather than in the world like that of Jean-Christophe. Rolland’s intention was to call the book a “roman-méditation,” a combination novel and meditation, with the title “L’Un contre tous” (One against All). However, after his experience with “Au-dessus de la mêlée,” he was afraid this title might also be misunderstood. When the novel was completed and published in 1920, it bore the title Clerambault: Histoire d’une conscience libre pendant la guerre. In this work, translated as Clerambault: The Story of an Independent Spirit during the War (1921), Rolland advocates the necessity of individual thought as a check on the masses. The outlook for humanity is gloomy and pessimistic. Even more cynical is the author’s allegorical drama, Liluli, published the previous year and translated in 1920. The subject is war, and the one character left unscathed by the battle is buried in an avalanche. The heavens are empty; God is ineffective. Not surprisingly, critics saw the play as Rolland’s abandonment of faith.
Rolland’s next work after Clerambault, the short novel Pierre et Luce, conceived and written in 1918, translated into English as Pierre and Luce in 1922, was also inspired by the war. The plot is derived from the bombing by the Germans of a Parisian church. A bomb caused the roof to collapse, killing several people and wounding many others. The title characters, lovers, are killed in a similar tragedy, but not before Rolland has expounded on his ideas of the concurrence of past, present, and future.
The year 1919 marked Rolland’s return to Paris instigated by the news of his mother’s stroke. He arrived 4 May; she died fifteen days later. Rolland remained in Paris for the next two years. In April of 1921 he left for Switzerland. The following April he rented the Villa Olga in Villeneuve on Lake Geneva and moved there with his sister Madeleine and their father. Rolland leased the villa for the next sixteen years, and there he did most of the work on his next major creative undertaking.
The plan for another serial novel had been conceived as early as 1912, but Rolland had put it aside first to work on Colas Breugnon and then again when the war intervened. This cycle would have a female protagonist, the counterpart of Jean-Christophe. He called it L’Ame enchantée (The Soul Enchanted). Begun in 1921, it appeared in four parts with seven volumes between 1922 and 1933. The first two parts, Annette et Sylvie and L’Eté (Summer), were written in quick succession and each published the year after its completion, in 1922 and 1923, respectively; English translations of both appeared in 1925. These volumes are the best known and most critically appreciated of the series. Two years passed, taken up with other projects, before Rolland began the third part, Mére el fils (Mother and Son), which appeared in French and in English translation in 1927. Rolland put off the last part, L’Annonciatrice (literally, The Female Messenger), for more than three years, and when he finally started working on the manuscript in October 1929, he was repeatedly sidetracked by other projects and interests.
Simply put, the complex novel is the story of Annette Riviére’s enchantment and disenchantment with the world of materialism. Rolland himself considered it “le drame silencieux de la famille moderne” (the silent drama of the modern family). Annette et Sylvie opens in 1900, when Annette, long motherless, loses her father and discovers that she has an illegitimate half sister, Sylvie. Annette seeks her out, and the two become close friends, despite the disparity of their upbringing. Because of their independent natures, the two eventually drift apart but stay in touch. Annette becomes affianced to Roger Brissot, but he wants a traditional marriage based on the inequality of the sexes, and Annette cannot accept his point of view. She breaks off the engagement and discovers that she is pregnant. L’Eté opens after the birth of her son, Marc. Ignoring public opinion, Annette is quite happy with her unwed motherhood, but soon she faces the painful loss of her fortune and must teach for a living. Still hoping to find love, she meets an old school chum, Julien Davy. She dreams of marriage, but because of Julien’s timid spirit of conformity, plans fall through. Later, Annette becomes the mistress of a surgeon. This relationship is no more successful than the others, and Annette breaks it off, not wishing to be a slave to passion. Meanwhile, Marc grows away from his mother. Annette can do nothing to reach him, and this failure plus that of her love affairs are trials to her development that she must overcome in order to be free to start a new life. The book closes as Annette nears her fortieth birthday and war is declared.
The focus of the novel shifts in the next part. Experiences from Rolland’s own life and statements of his ideas abound in Mére et fils. Here Annette takes a job teaching in a provincial boys’ school where, like Rolland at the Lycée Saint-Louis, she is confronted with the corruption and mediocrity of the students. More and more alienated from his mother, Marc attends a Parisian boarding school and begins to mix with a crowd of anarchists. Annette forms an attachment to a wounded soldier who wants nothing so much as to see his dearest friend, an Austrian who is now a prisoner of war. Deeply touched by this friendship that surmounts nationalism (the unmistakable voice of Rolland), Annette helps the Austrian escape so that he can see his dying friend. She returns to Paris where she finds that her son has learned to appreciate her. Marc discovers the identity of his father, now politically prominent, and seeks him out only to be disgusted by his pompous views. The young man is about to be drafted and is making plans to run away when the armistice is declared.
The last volume, L’Annonciatrice, written so much later than the rest, is the most politically aware and the least interesting to modern readers, although it was favorably received at the time. When it opens, Annette is leaving Paris as the governess of a Rumanian family. She does not occupy the post long, for Annette flees, fearing for her life, in order to escape the advances of her employer. Back in Paris she develops a stormy relationship with a newspaper publisher named Timon, whom she eventually converts to the Soviet cause. Marc, revolted by capitalism, scarcely works. Terribly poor, he refuses the help of Sylvie, now rich, and falls desperately ill. He is nursed back to health by Assia, a Russian immigrant, who wins him to communism. They marry and have a son, Vania, a true child of the communist world, who scorns the bourgeois values of his grandmother. Marc leaves Assia to fight fascism and is killed by the Black Shirts in Italy. Sylvie dies, and Assia leaves Annette to go to the United States to remarry and, no doubt, further the cause of communism. A new world is being born.
For Rolland’s contemporary readers, the sense of immediacy in the novel was inescapable. The action ends in 1933, the same year the last volume was published. As a whole the work attracted much attention. Critics saw it as another step in Rolland’s fight for freedom and compared it to Jean-Christophe. Because of the quantity of philosophical commentaries in the novel, Rolland was variously seen as a prophet and social critic. Reactions, especially to the last volume, depended greatly on the political leanings of the critic. Rolland’s advocacy of socialism and communism gained for him both acclaim and violent dislike. More recently, Annette’s fierce spirit of independence and the intimate view of her loves and psyche have earned Rolland some recognition as an early advocate of women’s rights.
In order to understand fully the forces at work in L’Ame enchantée, it is helpful to consider Rolland’s other interests during the preparation of the novel. Over the years he was becoming more and more involved with the pacifist and communist movements, and his increasing commitment to those ideas can be seen in the successive volumes of L’Ame enchantée. Additionally, several critics have noted traces of mysticism in the novel directly related to Rolland’s growing preoccupation with the philosophies of the East.
While Rolland had been attracted to Indian religions as early as 1898, his interest was sparked in 1914 by an article written by Ananda Coomaraswamy advocating a world policy for India. The article bore a dedication to Rolland, and the two men began a correspondence that lasted several years. In 1916 another Indian, Rabindranath Tagore, spoke out in favor of Rolland. They also began to correspond and met for the first time in April 1921.
Rolland continued his Eastern studies and wrote a biography of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi that was initially published in the first volume of Europe, a journal founded by Rolland in 1923 in collaboration with several other writers; it appeared in book form in 1924 and in English translation under the title Mahatma Gandhi, The Man who Became One with the Universal Being. Gandhi was another of Rolland’s heroes, a leader to be admired for his wisdom and his great, active courage. The book was an enthusiastic portrait of the Indian; it was widely read and sold well.
Rolland’s correspondence soon expanded to include Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as well as several other Indians. In 1926 he entertained first Nehru, then Tagore, at Villa Olga. These meetings provided the inspiration for the last volume of L’Ame enchantée and for another long work, Essai sur la mystique et l’action de l’Inde vivante (Essay on the Mystique and Action of Living India). The first volume of the work was published in 1929 and bore the title La Vie de Ramakrishna (translated as The Life of Ramakrishna, 1929). The second, La Vie de Vivekananda el l’Evangile universel, appeared the next year (and in English translation as The Life of Vivekananda and the Universal Gospel in 1931). In these books Rolland is trying to show that there is a “universal gospel” that presupposes an essential accord between Hinduism and Christianity. He proceeds to defend Eastern doctrine to the West and vice versa. His efforts were crowned by another visit from Tagore in August 1930 and one by Gandhi, who arrived for a short stay the following month.
Between the writing of Mahatma Gandhi and the visits of Tagore and Nehru in 1926, Rolland took time away from his Indian studies and the writing of L’Ame enchantée to pursue his interest in the French Revolution. It was time to complete the project for the cycle of revolutionary plays abandoned at the turn of the century. In 1924 he wrote Le Jeu de l’amour et de la mart (published in 1925; translated as The Game of Love and Death in 1926; produced in 1928), set in March of 1794. The title of his next play, Pâques fleuries (1926; translated as Palm Sunday, 1928), hints that the seeds of revolution are already planted and waiting to blossom forth. This play is the prologue of the whole cycle, and the action occurs in 1774. Much of the tension of the play results from the fact that, unlike the audience, the characters are ignorant of the Terror that is to come. The story of Les Léonides (1928; translated, 1929) takes place twenty-three years after that of Pâques fleuries. The characters are the same or the descendants of the characters of the earlier play, but now the moving force on the horizon is Napoléon Bonaparte. The play ends on an optimistic note: class barriers formerly so rigid have now dissolved. The drama that completed the eight-play series was not written until 1938. Robespierre, Rolland’s last play, published in 1939, was an effort to justify the actions of the figure whom Rolland considered the greatest man of the Revolution. Fate dictated the revolutionary hero’s actions. The play is the glorification of revolution, which, by now, Rolland had come to believe was necessary in order to establish peace and the ideal republic.
Despite Rolland’s devotion to political and social idealism, he never lost his passion for music. His work on Beethoven had only begun with the early biography. In 1928 he produced the first part of a monumental project, Beethoven: Les Grandes Epoques créatrices (1928-1945). The first volume was subtitled De l’Héroïque á l’Appassionata (From the Eroica to the Appassionata) and was translated under the title Beethoven the Creator (1929). The work begins with Beethoven in his thirtieth year, for it is not so much a biography as a study of Beethoven’s creativity and production. Critics reviewed the volumes favorably but generally agreed that a prior technical knowledge of musical composition and of Beethoven’s sonatas was helpful to the reader. Work on the larger project was deferred for several years, but in the meanwhile Rolland produced Goethe et Beethoven (1930; translated, 1931). This piece is a study of the German poet intended to remind the public that he was the “greatest poet of modern Europe,” and it was only right that he should have met the greatest of musicians. Meant for a wider audience than Les Grandes Epoques créatrices, Goethe et Beethoven is a good deal less technical than the earlier work.
The next volumes of Les Grandes Epoques créatrices appeared much later. The two volumes of Le Chant de la Résurrection (1937, The Song of the Resurrection) concentrate on the years of the composer’s life between 1816 and 1823. Rolland analyzes the technical aspects of Beethoven’s last sonatas and the Mass in D. The last part of the study, La Cathédrale interrompue (literally, The Interrupted Cathedral), equally technical, was published in three volumes. La Neuviéme Symphonie (The Ninth Symphony) and Les Derniers Quatuors (The Last Quartets) appeared in 1943. Finita Comoedia appeared in 1945, after Rolland’s death.
In 1923 a young Russian widow had written to Rolland about her impressions of Jean-Christophe. This was the beginning of a correspondence that led to a meeting in August 1929. Both parties appear to have been pleased with the encounter, and the next year Rolland asked Marie Kodachova to come to live with him in Switzerland. In 1931 she came to Villeneuve to be his companion, secretary, and nurse.
Rolland’s health was very poor, and in August 1932 he was too ill to assume in person the chairmanship of the World Congress Against War. Instead, he sent a statement, published in pamphlet form in 1932, to be read on his behalf. He no longer believed that social change could be effected by nonviolence. While he deplored the idea of a capitalistic war, war to establish the “Revolution”—the new order—was often a regrettable necessity. More and more, it seemed to Rolland that Russian communism represented the hoped-for new order. He spoke up often in support of the U.S.S.R. and in praise of Vladimir Lenin, a position that no doubt was partially responsible for his election to the Academy of Science of Leningrad in 1932. Because of his beliefs Rolland refused the Goethe Medal that the German government under Chancellor Adolf Hitler offered him in April 1933. He wrote and published several articles condemning the German government. These, as well as the rest of his postwar polemics that had appeared in the Communist newspaper Humanité, were later collected into two books: Quinze Ans de combat, 1919-1934 (translated as I Will Not Rest, 1935) and Par la révolution, la paix (By Revolution, Peace), both published in Paris in 1935.
Rolland’s enthusiasm for Russia led to a trip to the Soviet Union during the summer of 1935, accompanied by Kodachova, whom he had married the year before. He went to see Maksim Gor’ky, with whom he stayed. Upon his return from Russia, he highly praised Joseph Stalin and the vitality of the Soviet people under the direction of the Communist Party. In Rolland’s opinion the political developments in the U.S.S.R. represented the hope of civilization, and he pledged his continuing efforts to defend her against all detractors. He was particularly impressed with the Soviet youth and wrote laudatory articles that were published both in Europe and in Russia.
Later the same summer Rolland took another trip, this time to visit the region of his birth, the Nivernais. He began to think about returning to France, and, in September 1937, he bought a house in Vézelay, a small town not far from Clamecy. The next May, after sixteen years, he gave up the lease on the Villa Olga and moved the household to Vézelay. Rolland had several projects waiting to be finished: his play, Robespierre, the last of his works on Beethoven, his personal memoirs, and Le Voyage intérieur (1942; translated as Journey Within, 1947), a collection of thoughts and introspective studies written primarily from 1924 to 1926. He launched into these endeavors and a literary study of his friend Péguy with his customary verve, but neither they nor his continuing battle with tuberculosis could keep Rolland from raising his voice against the worsening political situation in Europe. He protested against the violation of human rights and scathingly condemned Hitler’s Germany. When war was declared in September 1939, he wrote declaring himself unreservedly on the side of “the democracies and of France,” that were in such terrible danger from Germany. Nevertheless, he still believed in his ideal of internationalism— the German people themselves were not the enemy; they had been led astray by a despot who needed to be destroyed. With the approaching end of the war came a new belief in the destiny of France. Rolland had witnessed enough acts of heroism and sacrifice to assure him that the mission of an eternal France was to defend the cause of liberty. Caught up in this enthusiasm, Rolland finally succumbed to tuberculosis and died at Vézelay on 30 December 1944 at the age of seventy-eight.
At the end of his life Rolland seems to have experienced a renewal of religious feeling. This was definitely not a return to Catholicism, as Claudel tried to interpret it, but a belief in some unseen, divine power. In light of the mysticism inherited from his mother that threads its way in and out of Rolland’s literary texts, such a religious reawakening is not surprising. In fact, in Rolland’s work taken as a whole, vacillation and contradiction seem to be the rule rather than the exception. His opinion about the Dreyfus case is one example of many that show a turnabout in point of view and a distinct reluctance to take a stand. Similarly, he alternately accepted and rejected pacifism, then communism. Revolution was first denounced but later seen as a necessary means to an end. In Jean-Christophe Rolland promotes individualism and the importance of individual action. Collective and social action compete with individualism but finally dominate L’Ame enchantée.He believed that he was devoted to action but the testimony of his life shows that, in reality, he practiced detachment over participation. In many ways he was guilty of the attitude he so hotly protested when critics accused him of being superior and withdrawn in his “Au-dessus de la mêlée.” Although ostensibly fighting for a better Europe and a better world, his plea was addressed to the European elite, not the common man, and the City of God would be newly created, not formed from an existing community. In his efforts to remain above the battle, distant from the passions and emotions that clouded the war years, Rolland often came across not as a prophet or watchdog but simply as a man unable to take a firm stand. Consequently, during World War I the French considered him pro-German while the Germans thought of him as a Francophile.
Two factors, however, remain stable throughout his works and his life—his enduring love of music and his belief in heroes. Music was a passion that filled his life. It was a source of beauty and truth, of enjoyment and inspiration, that never faltered. And Beethoven, as “the greatest of all composers,” was Rolland’s greatest hero. There were many other heroes as well—the other “illustrious men,” Michelangelo and Tolstoy; Tagore and Gandhi; Maximilien-Francois Robespierre and Saint-Just; Johann Goethe; Gor’ky. Although Rolland found some of these heroes less than perfect, his belief in heroism remained unshaken. He created new heroes including Orsino, the prince Aërt, Christophe, and Olivier. If his heroes are splendid examples of the triumph and strength of the individual, they are no less a testimony to Rolland’s belief in the spirit of internationalism, for they transcend the constraints of nationalism. German, Italian, Indian, Russian, as well as French, Rolland’s heroes represent his belief in the essential brotherhood of man and the possibility of world peace.
Years after his death, Rolland’s beliefs and the works that express them have not lost their appeal. Two international colloquia dedicated to his political and social views were held in the 1990s: one in India in 1990 and another in France in Clamecy, Rolland’s birthplace, in 1994. Critics continue to debate the extent of his influence in books and articles, and his seemingly endless correspondence continues to be published at regular intervals. Rolland’s devotion to the universality of man and liberal idealism still attract readers and disciples from around the world as witnessed by the number of his works that are steadily reissued in the original French as well as many translations into Russian, Polish, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Ukrainian, Romanian, Hindi, Panjabi, Czech, Hebrew, Persian, German, and Turkish.
Rolland and Tagore, edited by Alex Aronson and Krishna Kripalani (Calcutta: Visva-Bharati, 1945);
Cahiers Romain Rolland (Paris: Albin Michel, 1948- )-volumes 1–3, 5–8, 10–28, and 30 include letters by Rolland;
Lettres de Romain Rolland á un combattant de la Résistance (Paris: Rodstein, 1949);
Europe, special Rolland issue, 109-110 (January-February 1955)—includes letters by Rolland;
Romain Rolland, Lugné-Poë: Correspondance, 1894-1901, edited by Jacques Robichez (Paris: L’Arche, 1957);
Europe, special issue on Rolland, 439-440 (November-December 1965)—includes letters by Rolland;
Lettres de Romain Rolland et Marianne Czeke dans la Bibliothéque de l’Académie des Sciences de Hongrie, edited by Györgyi Safran (Budapest: Publications Bibliothecae Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, 1966);
Etudes de Lettres, special issue on Rolland, second series 9, edited by E. Buenzod and G. Guissan (Lausanne: Faculté des Lettres, 1966)-includes letters by Rolland;
Bon Voisinage. Edmond Privat et Romain Rolland. Lettres et documents, Cahiers Suisses Romain Rolland (Neuchâtel, Switzerland: La Baconniérel / Paris: Albin Michel, 1977);
Bernard Duchatelet, Répertoire chronologique des lettres publiées de Romain Rolland (Brest, France: Université de Bretagne occidentale, 1981);
Lettres, 1911-1933; Ernest Block et Romain Rolland, Collection “Les Musiciens,” edited by Jose-Flore Tappy (Lausanne: Editions Payot, 1984);
Au seuil de la derniére porte: correspondances avec les péres Louis Beirnaert, Michel de Paillerets, Raymond Pichard et l’abbé Jean Sainsaulieu; extraits du Journal; entretiens sur les Evangiles (Paris: Cerf, 1989);
Correspondance intégral: Panaït Istrati, Romain Rolland, 1919–1935, edited by Alexandru Talex (Saint-Imier: Canevas, 1990);
Sigmund Freud et Romain Rolland: correspondance 1923–1936: de la sensation océanique au Trouble du souvenir sur I’Acropole, Histoire de la psychanalyse, edited by Henri Vermorel and Madeleine Vermorel (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1993);
La Vraie Patrie, c’est la Lumiére: correspondance entre Annette Kolb et Romain Rolland (1915–1936) (New York: Peter Lang, 1994);
Correspondances avec André Gide et Romain Rolland / Henri Bachelin, edited by Bernard Duchatelet and Alain Mercier (Brest: Centre d’étude des correspondances, CNRS, Faculté des lettres, 1994);
Correspondance (1909–1944): Romain Rolland, Lucien et Mary Haudebert, edited by Nathalie Guyader (Brest: Centre d’étude des correspondances et journaux intimes des XIXe et XXe siécles, Faculté des lettres Victor Ségalen, 1998);
Correspondance entre Romain Rolland et Charles Baudouin: une si fidèlé amitie: choix de lettres, 1916–1944, edited by Antoinette Blum (Meyzieu: Césura, 2000).
“Romain Rolland, Before War Began, Prophesied German Revolution,” New York Times, 4 November 1917, VII: 8;
Lucien Price, “Romain Rolland et Villa Olga,” Yale Review, new series 20 (December 1930): 273–292; republished in his We Northmen (Boston: Little, Brown, 1936);
Price, “Romain Rolland Converses,” Atlantic Monthly, 156 (December 1935): 718–726; republished in his We Northmen;
Louis Aragon, Interview with Rolland, Cahiers du Bolchévisme (15 March 1936);
Dilip Kumar Roy, Interview with Rolland, in his Among the Great (Bombay: N. M. Tripathi, 1945), pp. 5–63.
William Thomas Starr, A Critical Bibliography of the Published Writings of Romain Rolland (Evanston, III.: Northwestern University Press, 1950);
N. A. Vaksmakher, A. V Païeskavya, and E. L. Galpe-rina, Romain Rolland: Index bio-bibliographique (Moscow: Editions du Livre de I’Union Soviétique, 1959);
Starr, “Romain Rolland,” in A Critical Bibliography of French Literature, volume 6: The Twentieth Century, edited by D. W. Alden and R. A. Brooks (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1980), pp. 430–472;
Bernard Duchatelet, Répertoire chronologique des lettres publiées de Romain Rolland (Brest: Université de Bretagne Occidentale, 1981).
Marcel Doisy, Romain Rolland (Brussels: Editions La Boétie, 1945);
René Arcos, Romain Rolland (Paris: Mercure de France, 1950);
Jean-Bertrand Barrére, Romain Rolland par lui-même (Paris: Seuil, 1955);
Barrére, Romain Rolland, l’âme et l’art (Paris: Albin Michel, 1966);
William Thomas Starr, Romain Rolland. One Against All. A Biography (The Hague & Paris: Mouton, 1971);
R. A. Francis, Romain Rolland (New York: New York University / Oxford: Berg, 1999);
Bernard Duchatelet, Romain Rolland tel qu’en lui-même (Paris: Albin Michel, 2002).
Gunnar Ahlstrom, “The 1915 Prize,” in Noble Prize Library, volume 15 (New York: Helvetica, 1971);
Louis Aragon, Dix textes d’Aragon sur Romain Rolland, edited by Gaston Bensan (Rambouillet, France: Société des amis de Louis Aragon et Elsa Triolet, 2005);
Dushan Bresky, Cathedral or Symphony: Essays on Jean-Christophe (Bern: Peter Lang, 1973);
René Cheval, “Le Prix Nobel de Romain Rolland,” Revue d’Histoire Littéraire de la France, 76 (1976): 912–921;
Cheval, Romain Rolland, l’Allemagne et la guerre (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1963);
Roger Dadoun, Contre la haine: l’amitié Hermann Hesse, Romain Rolland (Marseille: Via Valeriano / Paris: Scheer, 2002);
Maurice Descotes, Romain Rolland (Paris: Editions du Temps Présent, 1948);
Bernard Duchatelet, La Genése de “Jean-Christophe” de Romain Rolland (Paris: Lettres Modernes/Minard, 1978);
Duchatelet, Romain Rolland: la pensée et l’action (Brest: Université de Bretagne Occidentale, 1997);
Frederick John Harris, André Gide and Romain Rolland: Two Men Divided (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1973);
Hommages á Romain Rolland (Geneva: Editions du Mont-Blanc, 1945);
Marcelle Kempf, Romain Rolland et l’Allemagne (Paris: Nouvelles Editions Debresse, 1962);
La Légende de la Révolution au XXe siécle: de Gance á Renoir, de Romain Rolland à Claude Simon, edited by Jean-Claude Bonnet and Philippe Roger (Paris: Flammarion, 1988);
Arthur Levy, L’Idéalisme de Romain Rolland (Paris: Nizet, 1946);
Harold March, Romain Rolland (New York: Twayne, 1971);
Dragoljub-Dragan Nedeljkovia, Romain Rolland et Stefan Zweig (Paris: Klincksieck, 1970);
Jacques Robichez, Romain Rolland (Paris: Hatier, 1961);
Pierre Sipriot, Guerre et paix autour de Romain Rolland: le désastre de l’Europe, 1914–1918 (Etrepilly, France: Bartillat, 1997);
William Thomas Starr, Romain Rolland and a World at War (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1956);
Ronald A. Wilson, The Pre-War Biographies of Romain Rolland and Their Place in his Work and the Period (London: Oxford University, 1939; Port Washington, N.Y: Kennikat Press, 1972);
Stefan Zweig, Romain Rolland: The Man and His Work, translated by Eden and Cedar Paul (New York: T. Seltzer, 1921); revised edition, translated into French by Odette Richez, edited by Serge Niémetz (Paris: Belfond, 2000).