St.-John Perse, pseud. of Alexis Saint-Léger Léger, 1887–1975, French poet and diplomat, b. West Indies. Léger, an opponent of appeasement of the Nazis, was enormously influential in France's foreign office and became known as one of Europe's foremost diplomats. His reputation as a poet of great lyric power grew after his self-imposed exile to the United States in 1940. Encouraged by Gide, he published his first poem,
"Images à Crusoe,"
in 1909. His symbolic Éloges (tr. 1944) followed in 1911. For Amitié du Prince (1921) Léger drew upon ancient sacerdotal sources. Anabase (1924, tr. by T. S. Eliot, 1930), a symbolic history of mankind, brought him wide critical attention. Among his later works are Exil (1944, tr. 1949), Vents (1946, tr. Winds, 1953), Amers (1957, tr. Seamarks, 1958), Chroniques (1960, tr. 1961), and Oiseaux (1963, tr. 1966). His writings were published as Oeuvres complètes in 1972. His work has been translated by Auden, Eliot, and MacLeish. Léger was awarded the 1960 Nobel Prize in Literature.
See studies by A. Knödel (1966), P. Emmanuel (1971), and R. M. Galand (1972).