Gracq, Julien 1910-2007 [A pseudonym] (Louis Poirier)

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Gracq, Julien 1910-2007 [A pseudonym] (Louis Poirier)


See index for CA sketch: Born July 27, 1910, in St. Florent le Vieil, Maine-et-Loire (some sources cite birthplace as Nantes), France; died of internal hemorrhage, December 22, 2007, in Anders, France. Educator, historian, geographer, novelist, playwright, and poet. Born Louis Poirier, he spent his entire professional career as a relatively anonymous and fiercely private teacher of history and geography at schools throughout France from 1937 to 1970. His alter ego, Julien Gracq, was one of the most prominent French authors of his generation, though he too stayed as far away from public view as possible. Gracq dedicated his first novel Au Château d'Argol (1938; translated a dozen years later as The Castle of Argol) to French surrealist writer André Breton; the novel was described by Breton himself as the first true surrealist novel. Yet, according to other critics, Gracq's superb precision in the literal and linear use of language transcended the abstract and nonlinear nature of true surrealist writing. Few of Gracq's thirty or more novels, plays, and other writings were published in English translation in his lifetime, and even then it was sometimes many years after their debut in French. Such was the case with La rivage des Syrtes (1951), which was not published as The Opposing Shore until 1986. That novel, an allegory framed in the story of two fictitious countries whose failure (or refusal) to communicate led to a 300-year-old war, earned Gracq France's highest literary accolade, the Prix Goncourt, but he stunned the French literary world by refusing the award. Gracq's other work in English translation includes A Dark Stranger (c. 1950), Balcony in the Forest (1958), and Shape of a City (2005). His autobiography, Les eaux étroites (1976) was not available in English at the time of his death. His complete works in French were published in 1989.



Gracq, Julien, Les eaux étroites (autobiography), José Corti (Paris, France), 1976.


Chicago Tribune, December 24, 2007, sec. 3, p. 8.

Los Angeles Times, December 24, 2007, p. B7.

New York Times, December 24, 2007, p. A16.

Times (London, England), December 31, 2007, p. 47.