Audiberti, Jacques 1899-1965

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Audiberti, Jacques 1899-1965


Born March 25, 1899, in Antibes, France; died July 10, 1965, in Paris, France; son of Louis and Victorine Audiberti.


Playwright, novelist, poet, journalist and essayist.


Prix Mallarmé, 1935; Grand Prix des Lettres, 1964; Prix des Critiques, 1964.



L'Empire et la Trappe, Librarie de la Carrefour (Paris, France), 1930, reprinted, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1969.

Race des Hommes, Nouvelle Revue Francaise (Paris, France), 1937, reprinted, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1969.

Des tonnes de semence, Nouvelle Revue Francaise (Paris, France), 1941.

Toujours, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1943.

Vive guitare, R. Laffont (Paris, France), 1946.

La pluie des Boulevards, La masque d'or (Angers, France), 1951.

Rempart, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1953.

Lagune hérissée, Les cent et une (Paris, France), 1958.

Ange aux entrailles, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1964.

Poésies, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1978.


Paroles déclairissement, Editions de la pomme de sapin (Aurillac, France), 1940.

La Nouvelle Origine, Nouvelle Revue Francaise (Paris, France), 1942.

Les médecins ne sont pas des plombiers, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1948.

(With Camille Bryen) L'Ouvre-boîte, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1952.

Moliere, Editions de l'Arche (Paris, France), 1954.

Le Retour de Calife, Editions de la Biblioteque mondiale (Paris, France), 1954.

L'Abhumanisme, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1955.

Les enfants naturels, Fasquelle (Paris, France), 1955.


Abraxas, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1938, reprinted, 1965.

Septième, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1939.

Urujac, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1941.

Carnage, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1942.

La fin du monde, Le temps perdu (Paris, France), 1943.

Le Retour de divin, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1943.

La Ná, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1944.

Monorial, Egloff (Paris, France), 1947, reprinted, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1964.

Talent, Egloff (Paris, France), 1947.

La Opéra de monde, Fasquelle (Paris, France), 1947.

Le Victorieux, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1947.

Cent jours, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1950.

Le Maître de Milan, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1950.

Marie Dubois, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1952.

Les Jardins des les fleurs, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1954.

La beauté de l'amour, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1955.

La Poupée, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1956.

Le Sabbat ressussité par Leonor Fini, Société des amis des livres (Paris, France), 1957.

L'Infanticide préconisé, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1958.

Les Tombeaux ferment mal, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1963.

Dimanche m'attend, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1965.


La bête noire, Les Quatre Vents (Paris, France), 1945.

Théâtre, tome 1: Quoat-Quoat; L'Ampelour; Les Femmes de Boeuf; Le Mal court, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1948.

Théâtre, tome II: La Fête noire; Pucelle; Les Naturels de Bordelais, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1952.

Le Cavalier Seul, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1955.

Théâtre, tome III: La Logeuse; Opéra parlé; Le Ouallou; Altanima, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1956.

La Hobereaute, Paris-Thèâtre (Paris, France), 1956.

L'Effet Glapion, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1959.

Théâtre, tome IV: Coeur à cuir; Le Soldat Dioclès; La fourmi dans le corps; Les Patients; L'Armoire classique; Un Bel enfant, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1961.

Théâtre, tome V: Pomme, Pomme, Pomme; Báton et ruban; Boutique fermé; La Birgitta, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1962.

La Guérite, Nouvelle Revue Francaise (Paris, France), 1963.

La Guillotine, Nouvelle Revue Francaise (Paris, France), 1964.

La Poupée: Comédie en six tableaux, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1969.


Entretiens avec Georges Charbonnier, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1965.

Lettres à Jean Paulhan: 1933-1965, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1993.

Paris fut: écrits sur Paris: 1937-1953, C. Paulhan (Paris, France), 1999.

Chiens écrasés, Fata morgana (Montpellier, France), 2000.


Jacques Audiberti is best known as a dramatist, though his poetry and fiction have received critical praise as well. His work is characterized by a deep inventiveness in the French language mixed with a strong sense of the melodramatic and the absurd. Audiberti's recurring themes are clearly focused in all his work: the ever-present conflict between Christianity and paganism, and the presence of a primordial spirit of evil in human affairs. As Leonard Cabell Pronko commented in Avant-Garde: The Experimental Theater in France, reprinted in Contemporary Literary Criticism: "[Audiberti's world] is poised dramatically between good and evil. Here, however, evil is seen not as the work of the devil, but as the result of the whims of some malevolent diety, or of man's constant frustration in his human condition. It is a world of creatures tormented by love and a vague metaphysical yearning that goes beyond love, but which cannot be satisfied."

Audiberti was born and raised in Antibes, France, a Mediterranean city that figures symbolically in all his work. Like Marseilles, Genoa and Barcelona, Antibes is a port that traces its origins back to the pre-Christian Phoenician trade routes. In the Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, an essayist wrote, "Audiberti claimed that his life and work has two distinct poles: Antibes, his native city, and Paris, his adoptive one. Although at twenty-five he moved to Paris, in later years Audiberti wrote that he never really left Antibes. And indeed, the influence of its Provençal climate, its language, and temperament are key to his work."

In Paris Audiberti became a journalist. Making himself known in some literary circles by his poetry, he decided to dedicate himself to literature by 1942. With the publication of Race des Hommes, his work became recognizable to the critics and the public. In Yale French Studies, reprinted in Contemporary Literary Criticism, Audiberti scholar Kenneth Cornell wrote: "The volume astonished rather than pleased the critics. Again what struck those who read his poetry were the wild, untrammeled flow of words and images, the vast vocabulary, and the epic sonority of many of the lines … by reference to an environment by which impulsive Italian and Southern French blood scorned moderation."

In his early career in journalism and as author of six books of poetry and sixteen novels, however, Audiberti was not recognized as the intensely metaphysical writer that he showed himself to be as a playwright. In 1946 his first play, Quoat-Quoat, was produced. The play enjoyed a success de scandale in Paris, and his reputation as an important dramatist was made. The conflict between paganism and Christianity is treated overtly in Quoat-Quoat. In The Theater of Protest and Paradox: Developments in the Avant-Garde Drama, George Wellwarth wrote: "In the play Audiberti portrays the latent power in the primeval myths far back into prehistoric times, long before the advent of the skin-deep, artificially superimposed pseudomyths by which we live now."

Quoat-Quoat is written as a satire of a nineteenth-century melodrama, a sort of Pirates of Penzance from hell. The hero, Amédée, is a spy absurdly condemned to death by the Captain of the ship who later pardons him from his sentence. The spy, however, defies his fate by committing suicide, believing that by this act he is the master of his own destiny. At the close of the play the Captain, who may be God himself, raises his hand and destroys the ship and all aboard, returning the universe to primeval emptiness. The play combines fantasy and farce to examine the serious issues of life, death, and man's individual identity in the universe.

Audiberti's most produced play is La Hobereaute, in which the struggle between good and evil is played out in terms of the conflict between nature and the Church. In a stylized view of the Middle Ages set in ninth-century Burgundy, the dying druidic religion, the cult of the oak and mistletoe, makes a last, desperate defense against the encroaching new religion of Christianity. La Hobereaute, is a spirit of nature that flies through the air and slips to the bottom of the lake where she sees "the silence of motionless, dazzling truth." She is ordered by a priest to marry the criminal and hideous Baron Massacre, rather than the upright and sensitive warrior Lotvy, whom she loves. Such a marriage can only disgrace the church that sanctions it, and Lotvy swears eternal revenge upon them, burning convents and violating nuns. When he comes to the monastery near the Baron's chateau, where he hopes to finally vanquish his enemy and win La Hobereaute, he is captured by the Baron and bound to a tree. There he is killed by one of his own followers who believes he has gone over to the enemy. La Hobereaute embraces him and is strangled by the enraged and jealous Baron Massacre, who then kills himself. Pronko wrote in Avant-Garde, "The precise meaning of La Hobereaute is not always clear, but in its total impact it surely suggests that man, torn between good and evil (Lotvy), persecuted in his natural feelings by a malevolent deity or some unjust earthly rule (Massacre, the Church), can now find happiness and unity (union with the nature goddess) only through death. Bound to a tree (the tree of life, the cross of man's suffering), Lotvy can at last be united with La Hobereaute, for death has released the sprite and returned her to her former supernatural condition. She is, in fact, the spirit of the universe, nature personified, and man is her child."

In La Fête noire, the hero, Félicien, is a mysterious and attractive man who, for some reason, no one loves. His frustrated desires have seemingly given birth to a horrible monster who ravages the region raping and killing young women. In the play the audience is led to believe that Félicien may actually be the monster, but the local authorities led by Félicien have caught and killed a goat, declaring Evil vanquished and the case closed. Denying that perhaps the monster is man himself, the community relaxes its vigilance and the monster can continue his rampage. The play ends inconclusively leaving the impression that the church, in spite of its militancy, has failed to destroy the natural human sexual drives it has suppressed.

In all of Audiberti's plays, however, it is the words that always take priority over the acting or staging. As Pierre Mélèse wrote in the Theater Annual, reprinted in Contemporary Literary Criticism: "Audiberti's style is a verbal inebriation, an accumulation of raw words, of carnal comparisons, of assonances, a series of images, uncontrollable metaphors of obvious irrationalism, the most unexpected of words." Cornell wrote of the body of Audiberti's work, "In Audiberti, despite his difficulty and excess, one has the creator of a sort of magic.… Illogical and strange as is his succession of images, out of them emerges that picture he has set himself to paint, existence at once tortured and comic, man with coexistent grandiose, petty, cruel, and tender sentiments, and his relationships with an extremely complicated modern world."

Audiberti's later works were increasingly mystical and profound though many felt that some excesses in language and literary device were too freely indulged at the cost of dramatic effectiveness.



Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 38, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986.

Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Esslin, Martin, editor, Encyclopedia of World Theater, Scribner (New York, NY), 1977.

Hargreaves-Mawdsley, W.N., editor, Everyman's Dictionary of European Writers, Dutton (New York, NY), 1968.

Hawkins, Mark, editor, International Dictionary of Theater, Volume 2, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.

Klein, Leonard S., editor, Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, revised edition, Frederick Ungar Publishing (New York, NY), 1981-1984.

Matlaw, Myron, editor, Modern World Drama, Dutton (New York, NY), 1972.

Popkin, Debra and Michael Popkin, editors, Modern French Literature, Frederick Ungar Publishing (New York, NY), 1977.

Pronko, Leonard Cabell, Avant-Garde: The Experimental Theater in France, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1962.

Throlby, Anthony, editor, Penguin Companion to World Literature, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1969.

Toloudis, Constantin, Jacques Audiberti, Twayne Publishers (Boston, MA), 1980.

Wellwarth, George, The Theater of Protest and Paradox: Developments in the Avant-Garde Drama, New York University Press (New York, NY), 1964.


Claudel Studies, Volume 5, 1978, Jean-Yves Guérin, essay on the theater of Jacques Audiberti, p. 51. Helios, Volume 6, 1978, Jean-Yves Guérin, analysis of La Logeuse, p. 73.

L'Express International, April 25, 1996, Raphael Sorin, article on the theater of Jacques Audiberti, p. 54.

Les Lettres Romanes, August, 1995, Laurent Beghin, article on Jacques Audiberti, p. 299.

Modern Language Studies, Volume 49, 1995, Jean- Yves Guérin, analysis of La Logeuse, p. 64.

Modern Languages: Journal of the Modern Language Association, September, 1980, Wendy Scott, essay on the theater of Jacques Audiberti, p. 125.

Nouvelle Revue Francaise, December, 1965, Hommage à Jacques Audiberti, 1899-1965, commemorative issue.

Renascence: Essays on Value in Literature, spring, 1967, Alfred Cismaru, article on Jacques Audiberti, p. 122.

Revue des Langues Vivantes, Volume 43, 1977, W.H. Sohlich, essay on the theater of Jacques Audiberti, p. 286.

Baroque Revue Internationale, Volume 6, 1973, Jean- Marie Auzias, article on Jacques Audiberti, p. 13; Jean Follain, article on Jacques Audiberti, p. 7.

Romance Language Annual, 1995, Nadia Harris, analysis of Pucelle, p. 73.

Theater Annual, Volume 18, 1961, Pierre Mélèse, essay on the theater of Jacques Audiberti, p. 1.

World Literature Today, summer, 1994, John L. Brown, review of Lettres à Jean Paulhan: 1933- 1965, p. 528.

Yale French Studies, Volume 1, 1949, Kenneth Cornell, article on Jacques Audiberti, p. 100.


Célébrations nationals 1999, actualities/celebrations/audiberti.htm/ (May 8, 2002), article on Jacques Audiberti.