The Nobel Prize in Literature 1960
Born: 31 May 1887, Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe Island
Died: 20 September 1975, Presqu'île-de-Giens, France
Residence at the time of the award: France
Prize motivation: “for the soaring flight and the evocative imagery of his poetry which in a visionary fashion reflects the conditions of our time”
Prize share: 1/1
Saint-John Perse (Alexis Leger at birth) was born in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, where his family owned two plantations: a coffee plantation and a sugar plantation. In 1899 the family returned to France and settled in Pau. Perse studied law at the University of Bordeaux and published his first collection of poetry in 1911. In 1914 he joined the French diplomatic service and spent many years abroad in various countries. In 1940 Leger began a long exile in the U.S. in Washington, D.C. He returned to France in 1957.
Saint-John Perse’s first poetry collection, Éloges and Other Poems, was published in 1911. While working as a consul in China, he wrote Anabase (1924) (Anabasis), an epic poem that puzzled many critics. Much of his poetry was written after he settled in the United States and has a profoundly personal tone, as in Exile and Other Poems (1942).