CLAUDEL, PAUL ° (1868–1955), French poet, playwright, and diplomat. A nominal Catholic who experienced a profound religious reawakening in 1886, Claudel was increasingly influenced by the Bible and by the continuity of the Jewish people. The theme of the confrontation of Jewry and Christendom first appeared in two plays, Le pain dur (1918) and Le père humilié (1920). He gradually freed himself from traditional Christian prejudice and developed an original, unorthodox, and purified vision of the Jewish people. Claudel's biblical meditations fill Une voix sur Israël (1950) – which reappeared under the revealing title La restauration d'Israël as part of a larger work, L'Evangile d'Isaie (1951) – and Paul Claudel interroge l'Apocalypse (1952). Traces of Claudel's early theological hostility were visible as late as 1942, but the poet's awareness of the Christian world's terrible responsibility for the Holocaust of European Jewry prompted his suggestion, in a letter to Jacques *Maritain in 1945, that the Pope institute a ceremony of expiation for crimes committed against the Jews. Later, he advocated the State of Israel's appointment as the official guardian of the Christian holy places. Israel's role in the Holy Land was, in Claudel's view, "to reconstruct the Temple at the crossroads of three continents and of three religions, or simply to take the initiative in summoning the universe to take part in that glorious task… and teach the world the interdependence of nations." In this spirit of cooperation and amity, Israel and Christendom would thus coexist and combat the threats posed by modern atheism.
Le Monde (April 3, 1952), interview with P. Claudel; J. Madaulé, in: La Table Ronde (1956); Cahiers Paul Claudel, 7 (1968); D. Goitein, Jewish Themes in French Works between the two World Wars (thesis, 1967); G. Cattaui, Claudel, le cycle des Coûfontaine et le mystère d'Israel (1968). add. bibliography: R. Reichelberg, Etude sur le thème de l'exil d'Israël dans le théâtre et l'oeuvre exègètique de Claudel (1976); H. Mathieu, Face à la question juive, Claudel interroge la Bible (1982).
[Claude (Andre) Vigee]