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Franck, Henri

FRANCK, HENRI

FRANCK, HENRI (1888–1912), French poet. A great-grandson of Arnaud Aron (1807–1890), chief rabbi of Strasbourg, Franck was born into a well-to-do Parisian family. He studied under Henri Bergson and became one of the circle of young French intellectuals who, in the aftermath of the *Dreyfus affair, opposed the rising tide of nationalism and sought a new national and metaphysical ideal that would save France from fanatical individualism. Endowed with a consuming ardor for life and learning, Franck refused to spare himself and died of tuberculosis at the age of 24. His works include philosophical essays and literary criticism, but his major achievement was a magnificent 2,000-verse poem, La Danse devant l'Arche (1912), which secured his reputation as one of the most gifted French poets of his generation. Encouraged by his close friend André *Spire, Franck sought to harmonize biblical inspiration with the French Cartesian tradition and saw himself as a new David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant. His poem concludes on a note of disillusion because of the refusal of his fellow Jews, so proud of their attenuated Judaism and atheistic French culture, to join him. Franck's spiritual conflict inspired his old friend and classmate, Jacques de *Lacretelle, to use him as a model for the tragic hero of his novel Silbermann.

bibliography:

J. Durel, La sagesse d'Henri Franck, poète juif (1931); C. Jean, in: Revue littéraire juive, 2 (1928), 675–99, 797–823; A. Spire, Quelques juifs et demi-juifs, 2 (1928), 107–69; H. Clouard, Histoire de la littérature française du symbolisme à nos jours, 1 (1947), 404–5.

[M.J. Gottfarstein]

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