A Guide to Contemporary French Literature: From Valery to Sartre

A Guide to Contemporary French Literature: From Valery to Sartre

A Guide to Contemporary French Literature: From Valery to Sartre

A Guide to Contemporary French Literature: From Valery to Sartre

Excerpt

In the literary tradition of France, eloquence, both oral and written, is a ceremony. It is true that in every literary tradition, eloquence, by its very nature, must become to some degree the stylization of language, but in France the instinct to make of language a highly formalized expression is deeper and more permanent than in other traditions. Each of the great masterpieces in French literature seems extraordinarily aware of the public to which it is addressing itself, of the presence of a public, of a public mind which must be subjugated and enchanted according to well-established rules of subjugation and enchantment.

And that is why the first trait of the French literary mind always seems to be its sociability or even what we might call its worldliness. The French writer is always addressing some one, even when he is speaking on that subject which has become a favorite since the days of the Renaissance when Montaigne wrote his Essays: the subject of solitude. Be-

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