Lacretelle, Jacques de°

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LACRETELLE, JACQUES DE°

LACRETELLE, JACQUES DE ° (1888–1985), French novelist. As a schoolboy, he experienced the tensions produced by the *Dreyfus case and his masterpiece, Silbermann (1922; English version in: L. Lewisohn (ed.), Among the Nations, 1948), is the story of a young Jew persecuted by his schoolmates at the time of the trial. A passionate lover of French culture, Silbermann dreams of a fruitful intermingling of the French and Jewish genius, but his idealism is misunderstood and he is cruelly ostracized and eventually forced to leave the school. Lacretelle's tragic hero, a portrait partly inspired by his friend, the poet Henri *Franck, set a pattern in French literature: Montherlant (in a short story) and Duhamel (in The Pasquier Chronicles) both created Jewish heroes not unlike Silbermann. Lacretelle presents a far less favorable picture of his hero in Le retour de Silbermann (1929), a sequel to the earlier novel. Here he traces the decadence of the Jew who, having sought his fortune in America, fails in every endeavor. In spite of his brilliance, Silbermann is plagued by what the author calls a "typically Jewish" urge for self-destruction, which leads to his death.

bibliography:

A. Spire, Quelques Juifs et demi-Juifs, 2 (1928), 63–91; D.W. Alden, Jacques de Lacretelle… (Eng., 1959); C. Lehrmann, L'Elément juif dans la littérature française, 2 (19612), 97–102.

[Denise R. Goitein]