D'Ormesson, Jean 1925–
D'Ormesson, Jean 1925–
(Bruno Waldemar Francois-de-Paule Lefevre d'Ormesson, Jean Bruno Waldemar François-de-Paule Lefevre d'Ormesson)
PERSONAL: Born June 15, 1925, in France; son of the Marquis d'Ormesson; married Françoise Béghin, 1962; children: one.
ADDRESSES: Home—10 avenue du Parc-Saint-James, 92200 Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. Office—Le Figaro, 37 rue du Louvre, Paris, France.
CAREER: Journalist and writer. International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies, UNESCO, deputy secretary-general, 1950–71, secretary-general, 1971; member of staff for various French government ministries, 1958–66; Diogèenes (journal), deputy editor, 1952–72, member of magazine committee, 1972; Le Figaro (journal), Paris, France, columnist and editor in chief, 1972–77, director general, beginning 1976, lead writer, beginning 1977. Member, ORTF, 1960–62.
AWARDS, HONORS: Grand Prix du Roman, 1971, for The Glory of the Empire; named Officier Légio d'honneur, Officier Ordre Nationale du Mérite, and Chevalier des Palmes académiques.
La gloire de l'Empire (novel), J. Tallandier, 1972, translated by Barbara Bray as The Glory of the Empire: A Novel, a History, Knopf (New York, NY), 1974.
Au plaisir de Dieu, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1974, translated by Barbara Bray as At God's Pleasure, Knopf (New York, NY), 1977.
Au revoir et merci, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1976.
Du côte de chez Jean, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1978.
L'enfant qui attendait le train, Editions G.P., 1979.
Dieu: sa vie son oeuvre, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1980.
Mon dernier rève sera pour vous: une biographie sentimentale de Chateaubriand, J.C. Lattés (Paris, France), 1982.
Jean qui grogne et Jean quit rit, J.C. Lattés (Paris, France), 1984.
Le vagabond qui passe sous une ombrelle troué, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1985.
Le vent du soir (novel), J.C. Lattés (Paris, France), 1985.
Tout les hommes en sont fous (novel), J.C. Lattés (Paris, France), 1986.
Discours de réception de Michel Mohrt à l'Académie française et réponse de Jean d'Ormesson, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1987.
Le bonheur à San Miniato (novel), J.C. Lattés (Paris, France), 1987.
Album Chateaubriand, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1988.
Garçon de quoi écrire, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1989.
(With Emmanuel Berl) Tant que vous penserez à moi, Grasset (Paris, France), 1992.
La douane de mer (novel), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1993.
Presque rien sur presque tout (novel), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1996.
Aragon parmi nous, Éditions Cercle d'Art, 1997.
Casimir mene la grande vie, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1997.
Une autre histoire de la litterature française, Nil Éditions, 1997–1998.
Le rapport Gabriel (novel), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1999.
Voyez comme on danse (novel), Laffont (Paris, France), 2001.
Et toi mon coeur pourquoi bats-tu, R. Laffont (Paris, France), 2003.
C'était bien, Gallimard (Paris, France), 2003.
Une fête en larmes (novel), Laffont (Paris, France), 2005.
Member of editorial committee, Gallimard.
SIDELIGHTS: Long associated with the French journal Le Figaro, where he has been an editor in chief and director general, Jean d'Ormesson burst onto the literary scene in 1972 with his first novel, La gloire de l'Empire which was published in English two years later as The Glory of the Empire: A Novel, a History. What makes the epic book about the rise and fall of an immense chimerical empire so unique, commented reviewers, is how d'Ormesson worked so assiduously to make it appear as if it were an actual history. The author includes extensive footnotes, for example, often citing real-life scholars but crediting their names to fictional publications. He writes about such characters in his books as the barbarian Arsaphes and Emperor Alexis as if they were real historical figures, and traces the thousand-year history of his empire in loving detail. "This has to be one of the most engrossing histories every written," wrote William Beauchamp in the New York Times Book Review, "yet not a word of it is true."
According to several critics, though, one problem with the author's approach is that it prevents him from making his characters living, breathing people. Instead, the author "must view his characters from a distance," noted Ronald A. Carter in the Library Journal, adding that the "pendantic style … makes for ponderous reading." While a Publishers Weekly reviewer similarly noted that the author's conceit might be carried too far, the critic added that he "is never less than clever and is strikingly so in his pseudo-historical citations."
D'Ormesson took a somewhat similar approach to fiction with some of his other ambitious novels, including Dieu: sa vie son oeuvre ("God: His Life, His Works"). In the latter title, d'Ormesson embarks on a kind of biography of the Supreme Being in which the creativity of God, and not the Christian message of the redemption of mankind through His son, is emphasized. As Peter G. Christensen pointed out in a Literature and Philosophy essay, "D'Ormesson's preference for the idea of a suffering God rather than a suffering Christ as a response to death-of-God pessimism leads him to express greater concern for the creative sphere of life than for the moral. More important to d'Ormesson than attributing to God a moral code to be obeyed is an acceptance of what an idea of God offers for him personally as a dreamer and writer." The author, related Christensen, concludes that "God is real even if he is only imagined."
In addition to tackling history and philosophy, the author created an ambitious fictional family saga with Au plaisir de Dieu (translated as At God's Pleasure). The multigenerational tale concerns a wealthy family's vain struggle to maintain its status and possessions in a changing world. While a Publishers Weekly contributor admitted that the story possesses a "beguiling charm," the reviewer commented: "The reader may wish there were sharper characterization and more story." A Kirkus Reviews writer had a similar complaint, while admitting that at its "high point" the novel provides "sentiment given a rare legitimization."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 1975, review of The Glory of the Empire: A Novel, a History, p. 724.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1977, review of At God's Pleasure, p. 1004.
Library Journal, March 15, 1975, Ronald A. Carter, review of The Glory of the Empire, p. 602.
Literature and Philosophy, December, 1994, Peter G. Christensen, "Dieu, Sa Vie, Son Oeuvre: Jean D'Ormesson's Attack on 'Apatheia' as a Quality of God," pp. 405-420.
New York Times Book Review, January 19, 1975, William Beauchamp, review of The Glory of the Empire, pp. 34-35.
Publishers Weekly, October 28, 1974, review of The Glory of the Empire, p. 42; September 19, 1977, review of At God's Pleasure, p. 140.
Times Literary Supplement, November 5, 1982, Patrick Lindsay Bowles, "The Play of Desire," review of Mon dernier rêve sera pour vous: une biographie sentimentale de Chateaubriand, p. 1222.