Pergaud, Louis 1882-1915

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PERGAUD, Louis 1882-1915

PERSONAL: Born January 22, 1882, in Belmont, France; reported missing in action c. April 4-7, 1915, near Marchéville, France; son of Élie (a schoolteacher) and Noémie Collette Pergaud; married a schoolteacher (marriage ended); married Delphine Duboy, 1910.

CAREER: Novelist and short-story writer. Teacher in Landresse, France, until 1907; worked for gas company in Paris, France; teacher in Arcueil and Maisons-Alfort, France; worked for Paris prefecture; founded magazines, including L'isle Sonnante and Le Gay Sçavoir. Military service: Served in French military during World War I; fought at Marchéville; became second lieutenant; reported missing in action, April 7, 1915.

AWARDS, HONORS: Goncourt Prize, Academie Goncourt, 1910, for De Goupil à Margot.


L'aube, Poésies, privately printed, 1904.

L'herbe d'Avril, Poésies, privately printed, 1908.

La revanche du corbeau, 1911, translated by C. W. Sykes as The Vengeance of the Crow, 1930.

De goupil à Margot, histoires de bêtes, Mercure de France, 1910, translated by Douglas English as Tales of the Untamed: Dramas of the Animal World, 1911, edited by Henriette Moussiegt and Adolphe-Jacques Dickman as Histoires de bêtes, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1930.

La guerre des boutons: roman de ma douzième année (novel; for children), illustrated by Michel Politzer, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1912, revised edition, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1963, translated as The War of the Buttons, Walker (New York, NY), 1968.

Le roman de Miraut, chien de chasse, illustrated by André Collot, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1913.

Les rustiques, histoires villageoises, L'Alliance du Livre (Seine-et-Oise, France), 1921.

La vie des bêtes, suivie de Lebrac, bucheron, roman inachevé, Editions Litterairees de France (Paris, France), 1923.

Correspondence, 1901-1915, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1955.

Romans et récits (collected works; includes De goupil à Margot, La revanche du corbeau, Le roman de Miraut, and La guerre des boutons), Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1963.

Oeuvres complètes (collected works), Livre Club Diderot (Paris, France), 1970.

Lettre de noël a Edmond Rocher: 24 decembre 1914, A l'Ecart (Reims, France), 1991.

Also contributor to periodicals, including Le Flambeau.

ADAPTATIONS: La guerre des boutons: roman de ma douzième année was made into a film.

SIDELIGHTS: Following in his father's footsteps, Louis Pergaud attended a teacher training school in Besancon to study to become a teacher. Unfortunately, his father never witnessed his son becoming a teacher, as both of his parents died in the winter of 1901, a year before his graduation. After serving in the military, Pergaud returned to the village of Durnes and became a teacher. Inspired by the works of Leon Deubel, he began to write poetry and contributed to a number of magazines.

In 1907 Pergaud made the pivotal decision to abandon both his unhappy marriage with his schoolteacher wife and his teaching position to move to Paris. He was joined by Delphine Duboy, whom he married in 1910. Although he first worked in a Paris gas company, he was eventually able to obtain teaching positions at Arcueil and Maisons-Alfort. He then moved to work at the Paris prefecture. It was also in Paris that Pergaud found success as a writer. Scenes from nature inspired many of Pergaud's work, including his critically praised animal stories, including De goupil à Margot, Histoires de bêtes and La revanche du corbeau.

One of Pergaud's most notable works is La guerre des boutons: roman de ma douzième année, which was translated into English as The War of the Buttons. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that The War of the Buttons is "not for the more sophisticated readers, but fun for those who enjoy looking back at an era of innocence." This charming children's book focuses on the war between two rival teenage gangs: the Longverne and the Velrans. In their ongoing battles, the victors vanquish the losers by stealing the buttons from their clothes.

When World War I broke out, Pergaud joined the war effort, fighting on the front lines of Larraine. He moved up the military ranks and was promoted from sergeant to adjutant to second lieutenant. It is believed that Pergaud was killed in action during the attack on Marchéville, although his body was never recovered. Notes and an unfinished novel were found among Pergaud's possessions after his death. A monument was erected by sculptor Antoine Bourdelle in Pergaud's memory in Besancon, and a number of his works were published posthumously.



Booklist, November, 1977, p. 488.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1968, review of The War of the Buttons, p. 1005.

Publishers Weekly, September 9, 1968, review of The War of the Buttons, p. 85.*