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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. Julien 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. Some critics have considered him to be closest to Georges Bernanos and François Mauriac from French writers.
"At certain moments in history destiny seems to hesitate between weal and woe, as if awaiting the arrival of someone—who usually doesn't come. But toward the end of the twelfth century a child appeared who almost managed to turn the Christian ideal into a triumphant fact." (in God's Fool: The Life and Times of Francis of Assisi by Julien Green, translated by Peter Heinegg, 1987, p. 3)
Julien Green was born Julian Hartridge
Green in Paris to
American parents of Scottish-Irish background. His grandfather Charles
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. Mary Green, Julien's mother,
was the daughter of a Savannah judge. Every day, she read her childred
the Bible in the Authorized Version and
brought them up as Episcopalians, whereas Edward was a Presbyterian. At
night, when he went to
bed, she would make him say 'The Lord's Prayer' with her in English.
Nakedness was something that had to be hidden. Whenever he got into his
bath tub in her presense, she used to
say: "Hide your body." She wanted that her son "should regard all
sexual manifestations outside Christian marriage as utterly sinful and
evil". (Julien Green: Religion and Sensuality by Anthony H. Newbury, 1986, p. 14)
Julien was last of eight children, five of them girls. An elder brother, Edward, had died at two years of age. Julien was the only native French speaker in his English-speaking family, but he never adopted French nationality. While living in Paris, the English novelist Arnold Bennett became engaged with his sister Eleanor (1880-1965), or this is what he wrote in his journal. Eleanor insisted that she was never in love with him.
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. At that time he no longer desired to become a monk. But Green's fascination
with the American way of life soon turned into feelings of displacement and
in-betweenness. Later he described those years as some of the saddest. It was also the time when he developed a serious interest
Green left the university without graduating and moved back to France. He gave up his artistic ambitions and joined the literary
scene. In his first publication in France, Pamphlet contre les catholoques de France (1924),
which came out under the pseudonym of Théophile Delaporte, Green let
out his frustration with himself and the Catholic clergy. Mont-Cinère
(1926, Avarice House), Green's debut novel, 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
Dark Journey), which received the Harper Prize, reflected Green's
his fascination with sexual instincts and
death. Henri Peyre descibed Green as "as authentic novelist in the
19th-century French tradition. He never indulges in fantasy, levity. or
humor, nor does he play with ideas or experiment with form . . . Green
is desperately serious, like a man who had to invent in fiction
anguished sinners and victims of morbid fear in order not to be stifled
by his own obsessions." ('Green, Julien' by H.P. [Henri Peyre], in Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature, edited by Jean-Albert Bédé and William B. Edgerton, 1980, p. 330)
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 conditions. 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 France. A friend rescued his books, which he had
left behind upon leaving 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; the decision was unanimous. He succeeded François Mauriac. 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. 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. One of the great
worries of his later life was to find a church, that would allow him to
share a tomb with his partner, Éric Jourdan, the pen name of Jean Roger
Éric Gaytérou (1930-2015), Jean-Éric Green after his adult adoption by
Julies Green. They are buried in St. Egid Church, Klagenfurt, Austria.
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); French Novelists of Today by Henri Peyre (1967); 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); Julien Green et Fedor Dostoïevski: une écriture mystique by Myriam Kissel (2012); Julien Green au miroir du Grand Siècle: Pascal et Port-Royal dans l'œuvre de Julien Green by Éric Pépino (2020); 'Green Julien' by David Parris, in Who'S Who in Contemporary Gay & Lesbian History: From World War II to the Present Day, edited by Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon (2001) - 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