BIOGRAPHY JEAN GIRAUDOUX – French novelist and playwright, Jean Giraudoux was also a diplomat. He is known for his plays “Tessa, the nymph with a faithful heart” and “Electra”.
Short biography of Jean Giraudoux – Born October 29, 1882 in Bellac (France), Jean Giraudoux grew up in Châteauroux. After brilliant studies, he was admitted to the Ecole normale supérieure. Fascinated by German culture, he continued his studies at the faculty of Munich. With his diploma in hand, he traveled to Europe (Serbia, Austria-Hungary, Italy, etc.) and to the United States. In 1909, he published his first work, Provincial, which is greeted by André Gide. In June 1910, Giraudoux was admitted to the competition for chancelleries and entered the service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1913, he became vice-consul. Mobilized during the First World War, he was wounded for the first time in 1914 during the Battle of the Marne, then again in 1916. Upon liberation, he resumed his diplomatic missions. At the same time, Jean Giraudoux continues to write and publish.
It was in the 1920s that his works met with success. In 1921, Jean Giraudoux published the novel Suzanne and the Pacific, then Siegfried and Limousin the following year, and Juliet in the land of men in 1924. He then stood out for his poetic comedies, rewrites of the great ancient myths: Electra, Amphitryon 38 and The Trojan War will not take place. These latter, which appeared on the eve of the Second World War, were all directed by Louis Jouvet and are among his most famous plays. Giraudoux’s positions during World War II are complex. His essay published in 1939, Full powers, has often been accused of racist, and seems to advocate a purity of the French race. However, the writer refused the post of minister offered to him by the Vichy regime, and criticized certain speeches by Pétain. His son, resistant, joined London: the participation of Jean Giraudoux in the resistance movement remains a subject of debate. Giraudoux died on January 31, 1944 in Paris, probably as a result of pancreatitis.
In 1937 Jean Giraudoux composed his piece entitled Electra whose first performance took place on May 13, 1937 at the Théâtre de l’Athénée in Paris. The author revisits the ancient myth of Electra, whose story first appeared in Homer’s Odyssey, before being taken up in the form of a tragedy by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides in the 5th century BC. AD Electra, daughter of Clytemnestra and King Agamemnon who has just been assassinated wishes avenge the death of his father. In search of the truth, she then sets out to find the culprit. Through his play, Giraudoux offers a real rewriting of the myth and makes a mixture of classical tragedy and modernity. He treats this tragic subject in the manner of a police and bourgeois intrigue. Although the critics give it a mixed reception, Electra immediate success with the public.
In 1928, Jean Giraudoux made an important meeting which was to have a considerable influence on his career as a playwright. Indeed, he crossed paths with Louis Jouvet, director and director of La Comédie des Champs-Elysées who pushed him towards the theater and would become his collaborator for many years. Thus in 1928 and under the advice of this one he accepts to adapt one of his novels to the theater under the name of Siegfried. The success of the play which marks the birth of a literary and poetic theater encourages him to continue in this direction. Until 1944, he published fifteen plays, among which Amphitryon 38 (1929), Judith (1931), and Intermezzo (1933). But it was in 1935 that Giraudoux composed one of his major works entitled The Trojan War will not take place in which he poses as an ardent defender of peace. Although inspired by Greek mythology and Homer’s epic, The Iliad, the play clearly evokes the threat weighing on Franco-German relations, which became increasingly tense in the 1930s. Subsequently, Giraudoux compose these pieces Electra in 1937 then Undine in 1939.
JEAN GIRAUDOUX: KEY DATES
- October 29, 1882: Birth of Jean Giraudoux
- Jean Giraudoux was born on October 29, 1882 in Haute-Vienne. This French writer distinguished himself in his functions as a diplomat just after the First World War, before moving to the theater, which earned him international fame. We owe him in particular “The Trojan War will not take place” in 1935, or “Ondine” in 1939.
- November 21, 1935: Premiere of “The Trojan War will not take place”
- Louis Jouvet is staging for the first time the play by Jean Giraudoux called “The Trojan War will not take place”. By taking up a Greek myth and staging the fatality of war, Giraudoux wishes to reconnect with tragedy, a genre that has disappeared in France in favor of romantic and bourgeois dramas. The play foreshadows the coming of the Second World War which, despite the pacifists’ attempts to appease, will inevitably take place.
- May 13, 1937: “I dusted the bust of Electra”
- Electre is represented for the first time by Jouvet’s troupe. At the confluence of classical tragedy and modernity, Giraudoux’s play borrows from the first the choice of themes and myth and from the second police investigation and psychology. The choir of ancient tragedy is thus reinvested in the role of the beggar. Electra, the character who gives the play its name, is on a quest for the truth regarding his father’s death. The revelation of that will be accompanied by vengeance at the hand of Orestes.
- May 4, 1939: Release of Ondine by Jean Giraudoux
- May 4, 1939 is the date of the premiere of the play Ondine, directed by Louis Jouvet, at the Athénée theater. The author, Jean Giraudoux, was inspired by the eponymous tale, written in 1811 by the German La Motte-Fouqué. In a magical setting, Giraudoux represents the impossible links between man and woman nymph, a theme already mentioned in the Celtic myth of Mélusine. The heroine must lose her supernatural assets to assume her love.
- December 22, 1944: Premiere of “La Folle de Chaillot”
- Jean Giraudoux’s play is presented for the first time in public at the Athénée theater in Paris in a production orchestrated by Louis Jouvet. Marguerite Moreno plays the title role of Aurélie, La Folle de Chaillot. Louis Jouvet plays the role of the ragpicker. The play received a triumphant reception and critics saw in it “a theme for all delusions”.
- January 31, 1944: Death of Jean Giraudoux
- From 1943 the health of Jean Giraudoux became fragile. He died on January 31, 1944 at the age of sixty-one, according to the official version, as a result of food poisoning, but, more likely, of pancreatitis.