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Julien Gracq


Julien Gracq was born Louis Poirier in Saint-Florent-le-Vieil in 1910. His family had lived there for centuries. He read a lot as a child and was particularly influenced by Jules Verne. He was sent to boarding school in Nantes, which he hated but, nevertheless, was a brilliant student. He then went to high school in Paris. In Paris, he discovered modern art and literature, cinema and Wagner’s operas. He then went to the École normale supérieure, one of the top French universities, where he discovered surrealism. He studied geography and history and graduated in both. He published his first article (on geography) in 1934.

After graduation he became a teacher and also joined the Communist Party. However, after being refused entry into the Soviet Union, he decided to write a novel, Au château d’Argol. It was initially rejectd but then José Corti, who had published some of the surrealists, agreed to publish it if Gracq bore some of the cost. At this point he adopted the pseudonym Julien Gracq (Julien from Julien Sorel in Stendhal’s Le Rouge et le Noir and Gracq from the Grachi (Gracques in French)). The novel had a limited distribution but was well received by André Breton and others.

As a result of the Soviet-German pact, he left the Communist Party and vowed to keep away from politics. He was called up in August 1939 and became an army lieutenant. His regiment was at Dunkirk in 1939 and Gracq was taken prisoner and sent to prisoner of war camp in Silesia. Following a lung infection, he was released in 1941. He resumed his teaching career. His second novel appeared in 1945. He went on to publish a number of well-received novels, as well as poetry, plays and works of criticism. He remained in Saint-Florent-le-Vieil and continued teaching till 1970. He died in 2007, aged ninety-seven.

Other sites

Julien Gracq
Julien Gracq (in French)
Julien Gracq (in French)
Julien Gracq, un homme à distance (in French)
Magies du Verbe chez Julien Gracq (in French)
La Maison Julien Gracq (in French)
Obituary (in French)


1938 Au château d’Argol (The Castle of Argol)
1945 Un beau ténébreux (A Dark Stranger)
1946 Liberté grande Great Liberty (poetry)
1948 André Breton, quelques aspects de l’écrivain
1948 Le Roi pêcheur
1950 La Littérature à l’estomac
1951 Le Rivage des Syrtes (The Opposing Shore)
1952 Prose pour l’étrangère
1958 Un balcon en forêt (A Balcony in the Forest)
1961 Préférences
1967 Lettrines I
1970 La Presqu’île (The Peninsula)
1970 Le Roi Cophetua (King Cophetua)
1974 Lettrines II
1976 Les Eaux étroites (The Narrow Waters)
1980 En lisant en écrivant (Reading Writing)
1985 La Forme d’une ville (The Shape of a City)
1986 Proust considéré comme terminus, suivi de Stendhal, Balzac, Flaubert, Zola
1988 Autour des sept collines
1992 Carnets du grand chemin
2002 Entretiens
2006 Plénièrement
2011 Manuscrits de guerre
2014 Les Terres du couchant