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Julien Gracq
Gracq in 1951
Gracq in 1951
Born (1910-07-27)27 July 1910
Saint-Florent-le-Vieil, Maine-et-Loire, France
Died 22 December 2007(2007-12-22) (aged 97)
Angers, France
Occupation Novelist, critic, playwright, poet
Nationality French
Education University of Paris
Period 1938–2002


Julien Gracq ( 27 July 1910 – 22 December 2007; born Louis Poirier in Saint-Florent-le-Vieil, in the French département of Maine-et-Loire) was a French writer. He wrote novels, critiques, a play, and poetry. His literary works were noted for their dreamlike abstraction, elegant style and refined vocabulary. He was close to the surrealist movement, in particular its leader André Breton.


Gracq first studied in Paris at the Lycée Henri IV, where he earned his baccalauréat. He then entered the École Normale Supérieure in 1930, later studying at the École libre des sciences politiques (Sciences Po.), both schools of the University of Paris at the time.

In 1932, he read André Breton's Nadja, which deeply influenced him. His first novel, The Castle of Argol, is dedicated to that surrealist writer, to whom he devoted a whole book in 1948.

In 1936, he joined the French Communist Party but quit the party in 1939 after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact was signed.

During the Second World War, he was a prisoner of war in Silesia with other officers of the French Army. One of the friendships he formed there was with author and literary critic Armand Hoog, who later described Gracq as a passionate individualist and ferociously anti-Vichy.

In 1950, he published a fierce attack on contemporary literary culture and literary prizes in the review Empédocle titled La Littérature à l'estomac. When he won the Prix Goncourt for The Opposing Shore (Le Rivage des Syrtes) the following year, he remained consistent with his criticism and refused the prize.

Gracq taught history and geography in secondary school (high school) until he retired in 1970.

In 1979, he wrote the foreword to a re-edition of the Journal de l'analogiste (1954) by Suzanne Lilar, a work he called a "sumptuous initiation to poetry" ("une initiation somptueuse à la poésie").

In 1989, Gracq's work was published by the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. He remained distant from major literary events and faithful to his first publisher, José Corti.

Gracq lived a quiet life in his native town of Saint-Florent-le-Vieil, on the banks of the Loire River. On 22 December 2007, a couple of days after suffering a dizzy spell, he died at the age of 97 in a hospital in Angers.

The Opposing Shore

The Opposing Shore (Le Rivage des Syrtes, 1951) is Julien Gracq's most famous novel.

A novel of waiting, it is set in an old fortress close to a sea which defines the ancestral border between the stagnant principality of Orsenna and the territory of its archenemy, the mysterious Farghestan. Its lonely characters are caught in a no man's land, waiting for something to happen and wondering whether something should be done to bring about change, particularly when change may mean the death of civilisations.


  • Au château d'Argol, 1938 (novel) (English translation: The Castle of Argol)
  • Un beau ténébreux, 1945 (novel) (English translation: A Dark Stranger)
  • Liberté grande, 1947 (poetry)
  • Le Roi pêcheur, 1948 (play)
  • André Breton, quelques aspects de l'écrivain, 1948 (critique)
  • La Littérature à l'estomac, 1949
  • Le Rivage des Syrtes, 1951 (novel) (English translation: The Opposing Shore)
  • Prose pour l'Etrangère, 1952
  • Penthésilée, 1954 (play; translation of Kleist's Penthesilea)
  • Un balcon en forêt, 1958 (novel) (English translation: A Balcony in the Forest)
  • Préférences, 1961
  • Lettrines, 1967
  • La Presqu'île, 1970
  • Le Roi Cophetua, 1970 (novel) (English translation: King Cophetua); it inspired the film Rendezvous at Bray, directed by André Delvaux
  • Lettrines II, 1974
  • Les Eaux Etroites, 1976 (Allusions, allegories and metaphors on a French river, l'Èvre.) (English title: The Narrow Waters)
  • En lisant en écrivant, 1980 (English translation: Reading Writing)
  • La Forme d'une ville, 1985 (English translation: The Shape of a City)
  • Autour des sept collines, 1988
  • Carnets du grand chemin, 1992
  • Entretiens, 2002
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