Studies from Ten Literatures

Studies from Ten Literatures

Studies from Ten Literatures

Studies from Ten Literatures

Excerpt

"'SYLVESTRE BONNARD' a masterpiece? I agree. A masterpiece of platitudinousness. . . . It is the dullest and most colorless of all my books. I did it to win a prize and I did it so well--or rather so badly --that I won the prize." Thus Anatole France described that work which, in Lafcadio Hearn's translation, first introduced him to the English-speaking world, in 1891. Just ten years previously the same book had established him for the first time with the general reading public in France. Anatole France was then thirty-seven years old, but was practically unknown when the French Academy crowned The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard , which was to become the most renowned and universally popular of all his works. France did not easily or quickly achieve the fame which was his so long that one is inclined to think of him as having never known the drudgery and obscurity of literary apprenticeship. He died in his eightieth year, after a career extending over a period dating back to 1868, when his first book, a critical study of Alfred de Vigny, was published, but he actually made his début at the precocious age of fifteen or thereabout with The Legend of Sainte Radegonde , a schoolboy theme published by his father, the bookseller of the Quai Voltaire, whose shop was the appropriate cradle of Anatole France's genius. We next hear of him as a contributor to an obscure periodical, La Gazette Rimée , for which he wrote two savage political satires in verse on the régime of the Third Empire, thereby hastening the early death of the review in question and almost delivering himself into the none too gentle hands of . . .

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