The Nobel Prize in Literature 1952
Born: 11 October 1885, Bordeaux, France
Died: 1 September 1970, Paris, France
Residence at the time of the award: France
Prize motivation: “for the deep spiritual insight and the artistic intensity with which he has in his novels penetrated the drama of human life”
Prize share: 1/1
François Mauriac espoused Jansenism, a movement within Catholicism asserting that an individual’s fate was predestined by God and focused on original sin and the mystery of God’s grace. These themes can be seen in Mauriac’s writings, which revolve around humankind’s helplessness without God’s grace and the bourgeois family’s mendacity and hypocrisy. Mauriac was an outspoken opponent of Franco’s regime in Spain and supported the resistance movement against Nazism in France during World War II. In 1933 he was elected to the French Academy.
François Mauriac made his debut with the Les Mains jointes (Clasped Hands) poetry collection but subsequently worked as a playwright and novelist. His novels often take place in and around Bordeaux in France and examine human nature in the light of Catholicism. The characters grapple with greed, self-righteousness and feelings of guilt. As a result Mauriac has sometimes been depicted as a misanthrope, but he responded to this criticism himself by saying that, on the contrary, the recurring messages in his books about divine grace and love were intended to spread hope and confidence.