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Paul Bourget

Date de naissance: 2. septembre 1852
Date de décès: 25. décembre 1935
Autres noms:Paul Charles Bourget

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Paul Bourget, né à Amiens le 2 septembre 1852 et mort à Paris le 25 décembre 1935, est un écrivain et essayiste catholique français issu d’une famille originaire d’Ardèche.

Ayant donné le signal d’une réaction contre le naturalisme en littérature, Bourget est d’abord tenté par le roman d’analyse expérimental. La finesse de ses études de mœurs et de caractères séduit le public mondain qu’il fréquente dans les salons parisiens de la Troisième République. Ses premiers romans – Cruelle énigme , Un crime d'amour et Mensonges – ont ainsi un grand retentissement auprès d’une jeune génération en quête de rêve de modernité.

Le romancier change ensuite de direction et s’oriente à partir du roman Le Disciple , considéré comme son œuvre majeure, vers le « roman à thèse », c’est-à-dire le roman d'idées. Il ne se contente plus de l’analyse des mœurs mais en dévoile les origines et les causes, soumises à des lois inéluctables et dont la transgression amène tous les désordres individuels et sociaux. Cette nouvelle voie conduit Paul Bourget à écrire des romans davantage psychologiques : L’Étape , Un divorce et Le Démon de midi . Il est alors influencé dans son engagement littéraire et dans son orientation romanesque par sa conversion au catholicisme et tente une synthèse entre la science et la foi. L’écrivain est amené à appliquer son talent de romancier psychologue et moraliste aux problèmes sociaux, politiques et religieux de son temps de ce début de XXe siècle.

Son œuvre multiple comprend aussi des poèmes de jeunesse, des essais et quelques pièces de théâtre. L’engagement politique de Paul Bourget même s’il reste souvent cantonné à l’expression littéraire s’est cependant manifesté au sein de mouvements militants et les nombreuses prises de position du romancier traditionaliste, catholique et antidreyfusard en faveur de la monarchie brouillent la lecture de son œuvre, aujourd’hui incomprise voire méprisée et tombée dans l’oubli.

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Citations Paul Bourget

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„I wished to tell him who I was, with what purpose I had gone to him and that I regretted it. But there was no need of a confession. It would be enough to destroy the pages I had written the night before. With this idea I arose. Before tearing them up, I reread them. And then — any writer will understand me — and then they seemed to me so brilliant that I did not tear them up.“

— Paul Bourget
Context: I scribbled four pages which would have been no disgrace to the Journal des Goncourts, that exquisite manual of the perfect reporter. It was all there, my journey, my arrival at the chateau, a sketch of the quaint eighteenth century building, with its fringe of trees and its well-kept walks, the master's room, the master himself and his conversation; the tea at the end and the smile of the old novelist in the midst of a circle of admirers, old and young. It lacked only a few closing lines. "I will add these in the morning," I thought, and went to bed with a feeling of duty performed, such is the nature of a writer. Under the form of an interview I had done, and I knew it, the best work of my life. What happens while we sleep? Is there, unknown to us, a secret and irresistible ferment of ideas while our senses are closed to the impressions of the outside world? Certain it is that on awakening I am apt to find myself in a state of mind very different from that in which I went to sleep. I had not been awake ten minutes before the image of Pierre Fauchery came up before me, and at the same time the thought that I had taken a base advantage of the kindness of his reception of me became quite unbearable. I felt a passionate longing to see him again, to ask his pardon for my deception. I wished to tell him who I was, with what purpose I had gone to him and that I regretted it. But there was no need of a confession. It would be enough to destroy the pages I had written the night before. With this idea I arose. Before tearing them up, I reread them. And then — any writer will understand me — and then they seemed to me so brilliant that I did not tear them up. Fauchery is so intelligent, so generous, was the thought that crossed my mind. What is there in this interview, after all, to offend him? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Even if I should go to him again this very morning, tell him my story and that upon the success of my little inquiry my whole future as a journalist might depend? When he found that I had had five years of poverty and hard work without accomplishing anything, and that I had had to go onto a paper in order to earn the very bread I ate, he would pardon me, he would pity me and he would say, "Publish your interview." Yes, but what if he should forbid my publishing it? But no, he would not do that.

„Was I saved? Was I lost? All depended on the moment at which somebody might go into my stepfather's room.“

— Paul Bourget
Context: Was I saved? Was I lost? All depended on the moment at which somebody might go into my stepfather's room. If my mother were to return within a few minutes of my departure; if the footman were to go upstairs with some letter, I should instantly be suspected, in spite of the declaration written by M. Termonde. I felt that my courage was exhausted. I knew that, if accused, I should not have moral strength to defend myself, for my weariness was so overwhelming that I did not suffer any longer. The only thing I had strength to do was to watch the swing of the pendulum of the timepiece on the mantelshelf, and to mark the movement of the hands. A quarter of an hour elapsed, half an hour, a whole hour. It was an hour and a half after I had left the fatal room, when the bell at the door was rung. I heard it through the walls. A servant brought me a laconic note from my mother scribbled in pencil and hardly legible. It informed me that my stepfather had destroyed himself in an attack of severe pain. The poor woman implored me to go to her immediately. Ah, she would now never know the truth! Ch. 13

„I recognize the invincible influence of the dead in the pallor of her cheeks, the wrinkles in her eyelids, the white streaks in her hair. He disputes her with me from the darkness of his coffin; he takes her from me, hour by hour, and I am powerless against that love.“

— Paul Bourget
Context: Is there any God, any justice, is there either good or evil? None, none, none, none! There is nothing but a pitiless destiny which broods over the human race, iniquitous and blind, distributing joy and grief at haphazard. A God who says, "Thou shalt not kill," to him whose father has been killed? No, I don't believe it. No, if hell were there before me, gaping open, I would make answer: "I have done well," and I would not repent. I do not repent. My remorse is not for having seized the weapon and struck the blow, it is that I owe to him — to him — that infamous good service which he did me — that I cannot to the present hour shake from me the horrible gift I have received from that man. If I had destroyed the paper, if I had gone and given myself up, if I had appeared before a jury, revealing, proclaiming my deed, I should not be ashamed; I could still hold up my head. What relief, what joy it would be if I might cry aloud to all men that I killed him, that he lied, and I lied, that it was I, I, who took the weapon and plunged it into him! And yet, I ought not to suffer from having accepted — no — endured the odious immunity. Was it from any motive of cowardice that I acted thus? What was I afraid of? Of torturing my mother, nothing more. Why, then, do I suffer this unendurable anguish? Ah, it is she, it is my mother who, without intending it, makes the dead so living to me, by her own despair. She lives, shut up in the rooms where they lived together for sixteen years; she has not allowed a single article of furniture to be touched; she surrounds the man's accursed memory with the same pious reverence that my aunt formerly lavished on my unhappy father. I recognize the invincible influence of the dead in the pallor of her cheeks, the wrinkles in her eyelids, the white streaks in her hair. He disputes her with me from the darkness of his coffin; he takes her from me, hour by hour, and I am powerless against that love. Ch. 14

„There is no such thing as an age for love ... because the man capable of loving — in the complex and modern sense of love as a sort of ideal exaltation — never ceases to love.“

— Paul Bourget
Context: There is no such thing as an age for love... because the man capable of loving — in the complex and modern sense of love as a sort of ideal exaltation — never ceases to love. I will go further; he never ceases to love the same person. You know the experiment that a contemporary physiologist tried with a series of portraits to determine in what the indefinable resemblances called family likeness consisted? He took photographs of twenty persons of the same blood, then he photographed these photographs on the same plate, one over the other. In this way he discovered the common features which determined the type. Well, I am convinced that if we could try a similar experiment and photograph one upon another the pictures of the different women whom the same man has loved or thought he had loved in the course of his life we should discover that all these women resembled one another. The most inconsistent have cherished one and the same being through five or six or even twenty different embodiments. Pierre Fauchery, as quoted by the character "Jules Labarthe"

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„My remorse is not for having seized the weapon and struck the blow, it is that I owe to him — to him — that infamous good service which he did me — that I cannot to the present hour shake from me the horrible gift I have received from that man.“

— Paul Bourget
Context: Is there any God, any justice, is there either good or evil? None, none, none, none! There is nothing but a pitiless destiny which broods over the human race, iniquitous and blind, distributing joy and grief at haphazard. A God who says, "Thou shalt not kill," to him whose father has been killed? No, I don't believe it. No, if hell were there before me, gaping open, I would make answer: "I have done well," and I would not repent. I do not repent. My remorse is not for having seized the weapon and struck the blow, it is that I owe to him — to him — that infamous good service which he did me — that I cannot to the present hour shake from me the horrible gift I have received from that man. If I had destroyed the paper, if I had gone and given myself up, if I had appeared before a jury, revealing, proclaiming my deed, I should not be ashamed; I could still hold up my head. What relief, what joy it would be if I might cry aloud to all men that I killed him, that he lied, and I lied, that it was I, I, who took the weapon and plunged it into him! And yet, I ought not to suffer from having accepted — no — endured the odious immunity. Was it from any motive of cowardice that I acted thus? What was I afraid of? Of torturing my mother, nothing more. Why, then, do I suffer this unendurable anguish? Ah, it is she, it is my mother who, without intending it, makes the dead so living to me, by her own despair. She lives, shut up in the rooms where they lived together for sixteen years; she has not allowed a single article of furniture to be touched; she surrounds the man's accursed memory with the same pious reverence that my aunt formerly lavished on my unhappy father. I recognize the invincible influence of the dead in the pallor of her cheeks, the wrinkles in her eyelids, the white streaks in her hair. He disputes her with me from the darkness of his coffin; he takes her from me, hour by hour, and I am powerless against that love. Ch. 14

„Under the form of an interview I had done, and I knew it, the best work of my life.“

— Paul Bourget
Context: I scribbled four pages which would have been no disgrace to the Journal des Goncourts, that exquisite manual of the perfect reporter. It was all there, my journey, my arrival at the chateau, a sketch of the quaint eighteenth century building, with its fringe of trees and its well-kept walks, the master's room, the master himself and his conversation; the tea at the end and the smile of the old novelist in the midst of a circle of admirers, old and young. It lacked only a few closing lines. "I will add these in the morning," I thought, and went to bed with a feeling of duty performed, such is the nature of a writer. Under the form of an interview I had done, and I knew it, the best work of my life. What happens while we sleep? Is there, unknown to us, a secret and irresistible ferment of ideas while our senses are closed to the impressions of the outside world? Certain it is that on awakening I am apt to find myself in a state of mind very different from that in which I went to sleep. I had not been awake ten minutes before the image of Pierre Fauchery came up before me, and at the same time the thought that I had taken a base advantage of the kindness of his reception of me became quite unbearable. I felt a passionate longing to see him again, to ask his pardon for my deception. I wished to tell him who I was, with what purpose I had gone to him and that I regretted it. But there was no need of a confession. It would be enough to destroy the pages I had written the night before. With this idea I arose. Before tearing them up, I reread them. And then — any writer will understand me — and then they seemed to me so brilliant that I did not tear them up. Fauchery is so intelligent, so generous, was the thought that crossed my mind. What is there in this interview, after all, to offend him? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Even if I should go to him again this very morning, tell him my story and that upon the success of my little inquiry my whole future as a journalist might depend? When he found that I had had five years of poverty and hard work without accomplishing anything, and that I had had to go onto a paper in order to earn the very bread I ate, he would pardon me, he would pity me and he would say, "Publish your interview." Yes, but what if he should forbid my publishing it? But no, he would not do that.

„Some day you will know for yourself that it is almost as true to say that one recovers from all things as that there is nothing which does not leave its scar.“

— Paul Bourget
Context: I had a friend, a companion of my own age, who, when he was twenty, had loved a young girl. He was poor, she was rich. Her family separated them. The girl married some one else and almost immediately afterward she died. My friend lived. Some day you will know for yourself that it is almost as true to say that one recovers from all things as that there is nothing which does not leave its scar. I had been the confidant of his serious passion, and I became the confidant of the various affairs that followed that first ineffaceable disappointment. He felt, he inspired, other loves. He tasted other joys. He endured other sorrows, and yet when we were alone and when we touched upon those confidences that come from the heart's depths, the girl who was the ideal of his twentieth year reappeared in his words. How many times he has said to me, "In others I have always looked for her and as I have never found her, I have never truly loved any one but her." Pierre Fauchery, as quoted by the character "Jules Labarthe"

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„We'll get even with him on his next volume. But you know, Labarthe, as long as you continue to have that innocent look about you, you can't expect to succeed in newspaper work.“

— Paul Bourget
Context: A few hours after this conversation, I found myself once more in the office of the Boulevard, seated in Pascal's den, and he was saying, "Already? Have you accomplished your interview with Pierre Fauchery?" "He would not even receive me," I replied, boldly. "What did I tell you?" he sneered, shrugging his big shoulders. "We'll get even with him on his next volume. But you know, Labarthe, as long as you continue to have that innocent look about you, you can't expect to succeed in newspaper work."

„I was suddenly carried away by rage to the point of losing all control over my frenzy. "Ah!" I cried, "since you will not do justice on yourself, die then, at once!"“

— Paul Bourget
Context: I was suddenly carried away by rage to the point of losing all control over my frenzy. "Ah!" I cried, "since you will not do justice on yourself, die then, at once!" I stretched out my hand and seized the dagger which he had recently placed upon the table. He looked at me without flinching, or recoiling; indeed presenting his breast to me, as though to brave my childish rage. I was on his left bending down, and ready to spring. I saw his smile of contempt, and then with all my strength I struck him with the knife in the direction of the heart. The blade entered his body to the hilt. No sooner had I done this thing than I recoiled, wild with terror at the deed. He uttered a cry. His face was distorted with terrible agony, and he moved his right hand towards the wound, as though he would draw out the dagger. He looked at me, convulsed; I saw that he wanted to speak; his lips moved, but no sound issued from his mouth. The expression of a supreme effort passed into his eyes, he turned to the table, took a pen, dipped it into the inkstand, and traced two lines on a sheet of paper within his reach. He looked at me again, his lips moved once more, then he fell down like a log. Ch. 13

„Forgive me, Marie. I was suffering too much. I wanted to be done with it.“

— Paul Bourget
Context: I seized the sheet of paper; the lines were written upon it in characters rather larger than usual. How it shook in my hand while I read these words: "Forgive me, Marie. I was suffering too much. I wanted to be done with it." And he had had the strength to affix his signature! So then, his last thought had been for her. In the brief moments that had elapsed between my blow with the knife, and his death, he had perceived the dreadful truth, that I should be arrested, that I would speak to explain my deed, that my mother would then learn his crime — and he had saved me by compelling me to silence. Ch. 13

„The contrast between the world of ideas in which he moved and the atmosphere of the literary shop in which for the last few months I had been stifling was too strong.“

— Paul Bourget
Context: The contrast between the world of ideas in which he moved and the atmosphere of the literary shop in which for the last few months I had been stifling was too strong. The dreams of my youth were realized in this man whose gifts remained unimpaired after the production of thirty volumes and whose face, growing old, was a living illustration of the beautiful saying: "Since we must wear out, let us wear out nobly." His slender figure bespoke the austerity of long hours of work; his firm mouth showed his decision of character; his brow, with its deep furrows, had the paleness of the paper over which he so often bent; and yet, the refinement of his hands, so well cared for, the sober elegance of his dress and an aristocratic air that was natural to him showed that the finer professional virtues had been cultivated in the midst of a life of frivolous temptations. These temptations had been no more of a disturbance to his ethical and spiritual nature than the academic honors, the financial successes, the numerous editions that had been his.

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