The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

March 23, 2017

March 23, 1881

Roger Martin du Gard (March 23, 1881 to August 22, 1958) was, we learn from the Nobel Prize website:

.... born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, attended two of the finest Paris lycees and, in 1906, was graduated from the École des Chartes with a thesis on an archaeological subject and with the degree of archivist-paleographer. To this training in history and scholarship he attributes his scrupulous realism and attention to minute detail.

Martin du Gard's first success was the novel
Jean Barois, published by his former school friend Gaston Gallimard in 1913. It anticipates some of the thematic material of Les Thibault. Largely in dialogue form, Jean Barois is the story of a life deeply divided by two world views, that of the Catholic Church and that of a freethinking, unflinching, humanistic philosophy of facing and mastering reality. In 1920 he published the peasant farce Le Testament du Père Leleu. He became attached to the circle of the Nouvelle Revue Française and was close to Gide, Copeau, and J. Schlumberger.

After the years of the First World War, which Martin du Gard spent almost entirely in the front lines, he devoted most of his time to the writing of the «roman-fleuve»,
Les Thibault, which culminates in the three volumes of L'Été 1914 [Summer 1914]. The twelve individual volumes of the series of novels appeared between 1922 and 1940.

Les Thibault is a monumental picture of the world before the outbreak of the First World War. Its rambling plot traces the history of Jacques Thibault, the rebel son of an upper middle-class family, against the background of the more staid destinies of his relatives. The work gives a detailed account of the hero's despair at the outbreak of fighting and the failure of his insane attempt to stop it. Various minor works, written for distraction or relaxation, include the drama Un Taciturne (1932) [The Silent One], ...., and a collection of village sketches, Vieille France (1933) [The Postman]. His Notes sur André Gide 1913-1951 [Recollections of André Gide] appeared in 1951. ....

Of these books, we look at du Gard's recollections of his good friend, Andre Gide - specifically his evocation of the palatial middle class Normandy house in which Gide grew up.

... [t]he dining room ...[has] three wicker chairs in front of the chimney piece; a wood fire is kept burning the whole day - mainly it would seem on behalf of three huge Siamese cats. These majestic ever sleepy animals, weighed down with their own fat and wrapped in their heavy coats of brown fur, may generally be found in occupation of the three chairs.

Roger Martin du Gard received the Nobel Prize in literature in 1937. Andre Gide
got the same honor in 1947.

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