Bernard, Tristan

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BERNARD, TRISTAN (1866–1947), French playwright and novelist. Born in Besançon, Bernard began his career as a sports writer, but soon turned to the theater, where he was able to exercise his talent for comedy, good-humored satire, and witty observation of the man in the street. His bons mots were so famous that for three decades he was credited with many of the jokes current in France. Bernard wrote several novels, notably Mémoires d'un jeune homme rangé (1899), Amants et voleurs (1905), and Mathilde et ses mitaines (1912). He is best remembered, however, as the author of such hilarious comedies as Les pieds nickelés (1895), L'anglais tel qu'on le parle (1899), Le petit café (1911), Le prince charmant (1923), Jules, Juliette, et Julien (1929), Le sauvage (1931), and Que le monde est petit (1935). Tristan Bernard combined the wit of the French with the bitter humor of the Jew. Le Juif de Venise (1936) attempts to reinterpret the character of Shakespeare's Shylock. He was arrested by the Nazis during World War ii but was released, following the intervention of influential friends. His son, jean-jacques bernard (1888–1972), also wrote a number of popular plays including Martine (1922) and L'invitation au voyage (1924). Though a convert to Catholicism, he was imprisoned at Compiègne for part of the Nazi occupation. His war experiences were recorded in Le camp de la mort lente (1945) and are reflected in the story, L'Intouchable (1947).


R. Blum, Tristan Bernard (Fr., 1925); P. Blanchart, Masques, 11 (1928); idem, Tristan Bernard, son oeuvre (1932); J.J. Bernard, Mon père, Tristan Bernard (1955).

[Moshe Catane]