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Who was Jean Giraudoux?

Updated on December 2, 2016

Giraudoux was born on October 29, 1882, in Bellac, near Limoges. After graduating from tne Ecoie Normale Superieure, he entered the French civil service and in 1910 was attached to the press bureau of the foreign ministry. He remained a civil servant for the rest of his life and eventually was named minister of propaganda in the Daladier cabinet of 1939. He died in Paris on January 31, 1944.

Giraudoux's first play, Siegfried, was produced in 1928, when he was 46. Its success encouraged him to write Amphitryon 38 the next year. There followed some 15 plays in 20 years, including Judith (1931), Intermezzo (1933; Eng. tr., The Enchanted), La Luerre de Troie n'aura pas lieu (1935; Eng. tr., Tiger at the Gates), Ondine (1939), Sodome ei Gomorrhe (1943), and the incomparable one-act comedy L'Apollon de Bellac (1942). When he died, he left two nearly completed plays- Pour Lucrece and La Folle de Chaillot (Eng. tr., The Madwoman of Chaillot). He had also published many novels and volumes of essays.


Unlike Sartre and Camus, who represent the mood of France after the German occupation, Giraudoux was committed to no special movement or school of thought. He was a diplomat, a critic, and a gifted conversationalist. As a novelist, he was led into eccentricity by his preoccupation with language, and his novels are written in an extremely mannered style. For this reason, among others, they were never widely popular, although often admired,

As a dramatist, under the auspices of the gifted director Louis Jouvet, Giraudoux achieved immediate and widespread success. His dramatic style is characterized by ah extraordinarily original imaginative gift coupled with a devastating sense of the absurd and a seemingly inexhaustible fund of eloquence. The Madwoman of Chaillot, for example, is a kind of fairy tale that affords an entirely rational view of the world in terms of a fantasy bordering on madness.

From a historical point of view, Giraudoux must be classed as a symbolist. It was his special function to bridge the gap between the symbolism of the previous generation and the naturalistic tendencies of his own. He evolved a new and daring manner and far outdid those of his forerunners who, like Maeterlinck, had attempted to bring symbolism to the stage.


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