Born in Rochefort on the Atlantic coast north of Bordeaux, Julien Viaud adopted the pseudonym of Pierre Loti with the publication in 1879 of his first novel, Aziyadé. His childhood was comfortable, coddled among the many women of his larger family, yet perhaps torn eventually between a nostalgic fondness for such tender ideality and a growing youthful desire to take to the sea, as had his ancestors. Even though his brother had died while returning from Indochina, Loti, seventeen, nevertheless felt compelled to pursue naval studies and, two years later, set sail on the Jean Bart, launching a professional naval career that would take him around the globe. The year 1891 saw him elected to the stillprestigious Académie française ahead of the claims of Zola, Loti's literary success having been considerable and rapid and in distinct contrast both in mode and subject matter with the “naturalism” of the period. His 1886 marriage to Jeanne Blanche Franc de Ferrière offered them, after one miscarriage, the potential happiness of a son, but Loti seems to have found marriage unsuited to his instincts and professional life, and Jeanne chose largely to live apart, with occasional visits to son and husband. (Loti also recognized two sons born of a love for a Basque woman, Crucita Gainza.) Having published almost forty books—initially novels, increasingly travel diaries, journals, even polemical pieces such as Turquie agonisante (1913) and La Mort de noire chère France en Orient (1920), and memoirs of his childhood and youth—Loti died, ironically paralyzed, in Hendaye (Basses-Pyrénées) in 1923 and was buried with full national honors.
Almost all of Loti's work derives from his extensive travel as a French naval officer to Turkey, Polynesia, Japan and the Far East, Morocco, Senegal and