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||Julien (Hartridge) Green (1900-1998)|
French-American novelist and playwright, whose works are connected to the tradition of (Roman Catholic) psychological realism and also show the influence of Edgar Allan Poe and the American regional style known as Southern gothic. Green's central subjects were self-destruction, religion, and sexuality. The stories were usually set in French provincial towns and depicted the lives of neurotic characters, who are tormented by their sensual greed, sins, and fears. Green preferred French to English as the language in which he published his works. From French writers Green was closest to Georges Bernanos and François Mauriac.
"For a person of nervous temperament, the monotony of the scene is a trial, almost a torture. And so it is that people on board ship turn, as if toward their salvation, to the company of their fellows, even if they have contempt for them, even if they hate them. For they have to live, they have to escape from the consuming boredom of the days, from the sea, and from that leviathan, ever lying in wait, which silently accompanies them." (from the short story 'Leviathan')
Julien Green was born Julian Hartridge Green in Paris to
American parents of Scottish-Irish background. His grandfather Charled
Green had settled in Southern States around 1830 and as a cotton
merchant and owner of plantations, he earned a considerable fortune.
Green, Julien's father, was a businessman and Secretary of the American
Commerce in Paris.
Julien was last of seven children, five of them
girls, and only
native French speaker in his English-speaking family, he created his
own private world, in which he brought for his mother's horror sex, and
his own obsessions on ancestral mysteries. While living in Paris, the
English novelist Arnold Bennett became engaged with his sister Eleanor,
or this is what he wrote in his journal. Eleanor insisted that "she was
never in love with him and, so fas as she knew, had never given him
cause to believe that his feelings for her were reciprocated beyond the
terms of ordinary friendship." Mary Green, Julien's mother,
was the daughter of a Savannah judge. She read the Bible daily and
brought up her children as Episcopalians. At night, when he went to
bed, she would make him say 'The Lord's Prayer' with her in English.
Whenever he got into his bath tub in her presense, she used to
say: "Hide your body."
After her mother's death in 1914,
Green followed his father into the Catholic Church. At the age of 5 or
6 he had begun to sense increasingly frantic yearning for sensual
pleasure. This hunger became focused on his male schoolmates. As
an Fellow pupils at
the Lycée Janson de Sailly taught him how to masturbate. At the age of
volunteered for the army in the World War I. Like Hemingway, he drove
an ambulance on the Italian front. Green then talked his way into a
French artillery. Before being discharged, was a member of the Allied
occupation force in Germany.
From 1918 to 1922 Green
studied in Paris and at the University of Virginia. His fascination
with American society soon turned into feelings of displacement and
in-betweenness. Later he described those years as "some of the saddest
of my life." It was also the time when he developed a serious interest
He left the university without graduating and moved back to France, where joined the literary
scene. His debut novel, Mont-Cinère
(1926, Avarice House), was
set in unreal milieu and depicted an American family caught between
boredom and greed. The work was inspired by stories he had heard from
his American relatives. It gained a critical success both in France and
the United States.Green's first name
Julian was changed to Julien in the late 1920s by his first publisher. Until 1932, his residence was on Rue Cortambert.
Adrienne Mésurat (1927, The Closed Garden) was awarded the Femina Bookman Prize. Léviathan (1929, The Dark Journey), which received the Harper Prize, reflected Green's obsessive sense of sin, and his fascination with sexual instincts and death.
The autobiographical L'autre sommeil (1930) was about homosexual awakening of the protagonist, and combined the experiences Green had in both the United States and France. With Le Visionnaire (1934, The Dreamer) and Minuit (1936, Midnight), Green entered into a world of dreamlike battle between good and evil, passion and reason. Some critics have seen that these novels are not traditional anti-bourgeois novels, although they picture French provincial life in critical light. Metaphysical boredom becomes the source of revolt, not social facts. In 1939 Green converted to Roman Catholicism for the second time. First time was 1915 after which he became a Buddhist. Green's early religious tensions are seen in the title of his first publishd work, Pamphlet contre les catholiques de France (1924).
Between the years 1940 and 1945, he lived in the U.S. and then
settled permanently in Paris. During the war he prepared radio programs in French for the Allies. He published little, aside Memories of Happy Days (1942), an elegiac memoir of his childhood and youth. In 1970 the Académie Française awarded
Green its grand prize for literature. Next year he was the first person
of American parentage to be elected to the Académie Française. Green's
later works include Moïra (1951), set in Charlottesville, and Chaque
homme dans sa nuit (1960, Each in His Own Darkness), a story of a
young Catholic troubled by homosexual urges, both considered among his
During this period Green examined the question, is the release of sensual passion confused with the liberation of the spirit. Some critics connected Green's "puritanism" to his American ancestry, some, on the other hand, to Jansenism. In the 1960s he published three autobiographical works, Partir avant le jour (1963, The Green Paradise), Mille chemins ouverts (1964, The War at Sixteen), and Terre lointaine (1966, Love in America). Green's Journal, together with Personal Record 1928-39 (1940) focused on the author's intellectual and social interests, without being solely a journal intime, an instrument of self-exploration.
Although Green was bilingual, he wrote mainly in French.
Vyvyan Holland, Oscar Wilde's son, translated four novels, The Dark
Journey (publ. 1929), The Strange River (publ. 1932), The
Dreamer (publ. 1934), and Midnight (publ. 1936). Green's
only major work written in English was Memories of Happy Days
(1942). He also published plays, essays, a children's book La Nuit
des fantômes (1976) and short stories.
Most of Green's plays, which often explored the theme of self-discovery, were written between 1950 and 1955. In Demain n'existe pas (1979) the lead character was homosexual. Sud (1953, South) was the basis of a 1973 opera, composed by Kenton Coe. It takes place the weekend before the start of the U.S. Civil War and features a triangle of a transcendentalist girl, Lieutenant Ian Wiczewski, the Yankee lieutenant she loves, and Eric Mac Clure, the Confederate officer he loves. At the end Mac Clure kills Lt. Wiczewski in a duell and the sound of cannon fire marks the beginning of the Civil War. Green's Journal 1926-1972 (9 vols.) revealed the author's self-doubts, wild dreams, spiritual torment and growth. Green died in Paris on August 13, 1998.
For further reading: Julien Green ou la tentation de l'irréel by M. Eigeldinger (1947); Green and the Thorn of Puritanism by S. Stokes (1955); Green ou l'obsession du mal by J. Semolue (1964); Julien Green par luimême by R. de Saint-Jean (1967); Julien Green: Gallic-American Novelist by MG. Rose (1971); Julien Green by G.S. Burne (1972); The Exorcism of Sex and Death in Julien Green's Novels by N. Kostis (1973); Sexualité, religion et art chez Julien Green by J.-P.J. Piriou (1976); The Metamorphoses of the Self in the Works of Julien Green by J.M. Dunaway (1978); Une grande amitié by J.-P-J. Piriou (1979); Julien Green: Religion and Sensuality by Anthony Newbury (1986); Julien Green: The Great Themes by Kathryn Wildgren (1993); Clivage et integration du moi chez Julien Green by Flavia Vernescu (1994); Julien Green: A Critical Study by Michael O'Dwyer (1997); Le journal de Julien Green : miroir d’une âme, miroir d’un siècle by Michael O’Dwyer & Michèle Raclot (2005); Le cheminement de l’écriture: l’espace dans l’œuvre de J. Green by Myriam Kissel (2005) - Autobiography in English: The Green Paradise: 1900-1916 (1992); The War at Sixteen: Autobiography: 1916-1919 (1993); Love in America: Autobiography: 1919-1922 (1994); Restless Youth: Autobiography: 1922-29 (1996) - Southern gothic: representatives among others Flannery O'Connor, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, William Faulkner, Carson McCullers