Renard, Jean-Claude 1922–

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Renard, Jean-Claude 1922–

(Jean-Claude Albert Renard)

PERSONAL: Born April 22, 1922, in Toulon, France; son of César (a military officer) and Yvonne (Rouvier) Renard; married Françoise Lainé, October 2, 1945; children: Jean-Bruno, Patrick, Emmanuel. Education: École Saint-Martin de France, Pontoise, licencié ès lettres.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Éditions Mercure de France, 26, rue de Condé, 75006 Paris, France.

CAREER: Poet and lecturer. Éditions du Cerf, Paris, France, literary director, 1950–62; Éditions Casterman, Paris, literary directory, beginning 1962.

MEMBER: Académie Mallarmé, Société des Gens de Lettres, Société Européenne de Culture, Communauté Européenne des Écrivans, Union des Écrivans, PEN.

AWARDS, HONORS: Prix Catholique de Littérature, 1957; Prix Sainte-Beuve, 1966; Prix de Régnier de l'Académie Française, 1971; Prix Max-Jacob, 1974; Grand Prix de Poésie, Acadèmie Française, 1988.


Haute-Mer, Points et Contrepoints (Paris, France), 1950.

Métamorphose du monde, Points et Contrepoints (Paris, France), 1951.

Père, voici que l'homme, Éditions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1955.

Incantation du temps (poems) Éditions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1962.

Jean-Claude Renard (collection), edited by André Alter, Seghers (Paris, France), 1966.

La braise et la rivière (poems and prose), Éditions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1969.

Notes sur la foi: précédé de une situation particulière, Gallimard (Paris, France), 1973.

Mon chien m'a dit, illustrated by Yutaka Sugita, Hachette (Paris, France), 1973.

Le dieu de nuit (poems), Éditions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1973.

Connaissance des noces, Editeurs français réunis (Paris, France), 1977.

Dits d'un livre des sorts, Éditions de la Diffèrence (Paris, France), 1978.

La lumière du silence (poems), Éditions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1978.

Selected Poems, edited by Graham Dunstan Martin, Oasis Books (London, England), 1978.

Le lieu du voyageur: notes sur le mystère (essays), Éditions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1980.

Comptines et formulettes, Éditions Saint-Germain-des-Prés (Paris, France), 1981.

Une autre parole (poems), Éditions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1981.

Toutes les îles sont secrètes (poems), Éditions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1984.

Jean-Claude Renard: son oeuvre et ses amis, La bibliothèque (Lyon, France), 1985.

L'"expérience intérieure" de George Bataille, ou, La négation du mystère, Éditions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1987.

(With Marc Tardieu) Quand le poème devient prière, Nouvelle Cité (Paris, France), 1987.

Sous de grands vents obscurs (poems and prose), Éditions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1990.

(With Jean Mambrino and Yves-Alain Favre) Une certaine nuit: transcendance et poésie, Éditions Inter-Universitaires (Mont-de-Marsan, France), 1992.

Jean-Claude Renard, ou, Les secrets de la chimère (collection), criticism and interpretation by Jean Burgos and others, Nizet (Paris, France), 1992.

Ce puits que rien n'épuise (poems and prose), Éditions du Seuil (Paris, France), 1993.

Dix runes d'été (poems and prose), Mercure de France (Paris, France), 1994.

Autres notes sur la poésie, la foi et la science, Éditions du Seuil (Paris, France) 1995.

Qui ou quoi? (poems), introduction by Marie-Claire Bancquart, Cherche Midi (Paris, France), 1997.

Le temps de la transmutation: cinq poèmes, Mercure de France (Paris, France), 2001.

SIDELIGHTS: Jean-Claude Renard was considered one of the most important French poets of the latter half of the twentieth century, but his work is largely unknown to English-speaking readers because of the scarcity of translations. Renard's poetry focuses on what he considers the great mystery of life: the link between the world's spiritual and material sides, and how these balance in relation to mankind. His early work reflects his Roman Catholic background, but later poems branch out, looking at the spiritual side of life as less structured by formalized religion. Language and the ability to invoke emotions that transcend everyday life are the driving forces behind much of his work, with a focus on travel and exotic imagery that reminds the reader of the strangeness of life, nature, and the spiritual side of man's existence. Roger Cardinal, in a review of Renard's Selected Poems for Modern Language Review, remarked that "Renard's poetry impresses at once by its compulsive naming of disparate entities. With a harsh surety of manner, he points out the features of a strangely varied and yet coherent landscape, deploying a noun-dominated vocabulary to invoke things alive or inanimate, textures, movements, forces."

Renard achieves a balance in his work, referring both to spiritual images and a more secular reality that grounds his poems in the material world. A contributor to the Times Literary Supplement noted that "it would … be a mistake to read everything in his poetry as allegory. Its first and immediate meaning is also essential to it; and this is a sensuous delight in the phenomenal world, a sense of wonder at its tremulous creative potentiality." This continues to be Renard's purpose in his poetry: a search for that which is remarkable in life and for the threads that bind the miraculous to the mundane. Regarding Toutes les îles sont secrètes, a 1984 collection of Renard's work, David O'Connell remarked in French Review that "these poems display Renard's ongoing attempt to penetrate and … set before his reader the mystery of existence."

In an article for French Review, Jean R. Cranmer discussed the dividing line between Renard's religious beliefs and his poetic efforts, stating that "it is true that his poetic expression of faith does not draw upon the tenets of Catholicism to the exclusion of other religions." Cranmer further noted that "his works do not celebrate the liturgy of a particular church or poetically reaffirm an established set of beliefs" and that "the object of Renard's quest is knowledge of the unique principle, the Absolute, from which all else springs." Renard finds no reason to limit himself to religious teachings in this quest. Cranmer concluded that "Renard's poetic universe is richly colored in sensory images from the world around us. These images, however, continually transform themselves into fragments of a mystical paradise glimpsed by the poet in his desired migration to a place at the source of all creation…. It is here that the religious experience and the poetic experience coincide."



French Review, March, 1985, Michelle Rogers, "Entretien avec Jean-Claude Renard" (interview), pp. 551-557; Volume 60, 1986, David O'Connell, review of Toutes les îles sont secrètes, pp. 169-170; December, 1992, Jean R. Cranmer, "Jean-Claude Renard: And the World Was Made Mystère," pp. 267-274.

French Studies, October, 1993, Peter Broome, review of Une certaine nuit: transcendance et poésie, p. 502.

Modern Language Review, April, 1982, Roger Cardinal, review of Selected Poems, pp. 467-468.

Times Literary Supplement, May 15, 1969, review of La braise et la rivière, p. 521; July 19, 1974, review of Le dieu de nuit, p. 771.

World Literature Today, spring, 1985, M. Bishop, review of Toutes les îles sont secrètes, p. 243; winter, 1991, Maryann De Julio, review of Sous de grands vents obscurs, p. 82.


Mercure de France Web site, (September 24, 2005), "Jean-Claude Renard."