gigatos | June 7, 2022
Marcel Arland, born July 5, 1899 in Varennes-sur-Amance (Haute-Marne) and died January 12, 1986 in Saint-Sauveur-sur-École (Seine-et-Marne), was a French writer, essayist, literary critic and screenwriter.
Marcel Arland was born in the East, in Varennes-sur-Amance (Haute-Marne, for a time a commune of Terre-Natale) on July 5, 1899.
Two great wounds mark his childhood. First, the brutal death of the father, Victor Arland, from cancer in 1903, when Marcel Arland was only three and a half years old. Then the conflictual relationship with the mother, who locks herself in her role of widow, unable to lavish the slightest sign of affection on her two sons. Marcel Arland describes his childhood in Ce fut ainsi: “I have kept no memory of this father. In truth, I could believe that I never saw him. All I know of him comes from the widow who tried day after day, throughout the months and seasons, by her cries, her complaints, her appeals, her pleas, to revive him; who moaned in the evening, in front of her two sons, in the harshest of winters: “My God! My poor Victor, how cold you must be in your grave”, and who led me once or twice a week, for hours on end, to that grave.
This awareness of being an orphan, and this construction around an absent figure, both that of the father and the mother, will leave a lasting mark on the work of Marcel Arland, underpinned by the search for an “absolute sincerity”, and on which the shadow of death often hangs, through the recurring motifs of the cemetery, suicide, despair…
He went up to Paris to study at the Sorbonne, where he met André Dhôtel, Georges Limbour, Roger Vitrac and René Crevel. With them, he founded a short-lived magazine, Aventure, inspired by the Dada movement, and then another: Dés. He then met André Malraux, who remained his friend, despite their difference in temperament.
In 1924, he publishes in La Nouvelle Revue française (he criticizes the postures of the surrealists and asks for a literature which is at the same time an ethics: “the pure expression and the pure accomplishment of (oneself)”. Jacques Rivière will answer him and a decade of Pontigny will be devoted to this article and to his theses.
He received the Goncourt Prize in 1929 for L”Ordre, a long formative novel – the only true novel he would ever write – whose hero, Gilbert, is a sort of Rimbaud of the 1920s. At the same time, his collaboration with the NRF grows: he holds the chronicle of novels.
During the Second World War, he collaborates with the magazine Comoedia and the NRF of Pierre Drieu la Rochelle.
When the magazine published by Gallimard reappeared in 1953, he became its co-director alongside Jean Paulhan. The same year, he became a member of the cultural council of the Cercle culturel de Royaumont.
One can say that he lives to serve literature: to help young writers, to advise them, to make them known – it is said that Jean-Marie Le Clézio owes him to have been published – to edit very good texts of known or unknown authors, to enrich the NRF with notes on the artistic or social current events sometimes. This period will be the peak of his career.
Although he had sworn never to apply for a place in any academy in order to remain free (it was an obsession), he could not refuse the invitation of his peers and entered the French Academy in 1968, to take André Maurois” seat. His only condition was that he would not make the visits usually required of candidates.
In 1977, he handed over the management of the NRF to Georges Lambrichs.
Marcel Arland died suddenly on January 12, 1986 in his house in Brinville, near Fontainebleau. His wife died in October of the same year.
His manuscripts and correspondence were bequeathed after his death to the Jacques Doucet Literary Library.
He is buried in Varennes-sur-Amance.
His wife, born Janine Béraud, was the maternal aunt of Michael Lonsdale.
Essays, dissertations and scientific works