Bernstein, Henri-Leon

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BERNSTEIN, HENRI-LEON (1876–1953), French playwright. Bernstein was born in Paris, and during his early period (1900–1914) wrote powerful, realistic plays depicting the cruelty of modern life and society. The best known of these are La Rafale (1905), Le Voleur (1907), Samson (1908), Israël (1908), and Le Secret (1913). Some of his plays deal with the Jew's position in modern society. There are echoes of the *Dreyfus case in Israël, which deals with one of the tragic results of assimilation. The young leader of an antisemitic movement discovers that his own father is a Jew. Overwhelmed by the revelation and unable to accept his new status, the young man is eventually driven to suicide. The plays written from 1918 to 1938 place increasing emphasis on the psychological problems of their heroes. To this period belong Judith (1922), Félix (1926), Mélo (1929), and Espoir (1936). The theme of antisemitism periodically recurs, and Nazism is attacked in Elvire (1940). During World War ii, Bernstein lived in the United States. Although he continued writing after 1945, tastes had changed, and his plays declined in popularity.


L. Le Sidaner, Henri Bernstein (1931); P. Bathile, Henri Bernstein, son oeuvre (1931); H. Clovard, Histoire de la littérature française du symbolisme à nos jours, 1 (1947).

[Denise R. Goitein]