|Louis Émile Clément Georges Bernanos
20 February 1888
|5 July 1948 (aged 60)
|Under the Sun of Satan, The Diary of a Country Priest
|4, including Michel Bernanos
Louis Émile Clément Georges Bernanos (French: [ʒɔʁʒ bɛʁnanɔs]; 20 February 1888 – 5 July 1948) was a French author, and a soldier in World War I. A Catholic with monarchist leanings, he was critical of elitist thought and was opposed to what he identified as defeatism. He believed this had led to France's defeat and eventual occupation by Germany in 1940 during World War II. His two major novels Sous le soleil de Satan (1926) and the Journal d'un curé de campagne (1936) both revolve around a parish priest who combats evil and despair in the world. Most of his novels have been translated into English and frequently published in both Great Britain and the United States.
Bernanos was born in Paris, into a family of craftsmen. He spent much of his childhood in the village of Fressin, Pas-de-Calais region, which became a frequent setting for his novels. He served in the First World War as a soldier, where he fought in the battles of the Somme and Verdun. He was wounded several times.
After the war, he worked in insurance before writing Sous le soleil de Satan (1926, Under the Sun of Satan). He won the Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française for The Diary of a Country Priest (Journal d'un curé de campagne), published in 1936.
A man of Royalist leanings and a member of the Camelots du Roi (Action Française's youth organization) when he was younger, Bernanos broke with Charles Maurras and the Action Française in 1932. He initially supported Franco's coup at the outset of the Spanish Civil War. However, after he observed the conflict in Majorca and saw 'a terrorized people,' he became disgusted with the nacionales and criticized them in the book Diary of My Times (1938). He wrote, "My illusions regarding the enterprise of General Franco did not last long—two or three weeks—but while they lasted I conscientiously endeavoured to overcome the disgust which some of his men and means caused me."
With political tensions rising in Europe, Bernanos emigrated to South America with his family in 1938, settling in Brazil. He remained until 1945 in Barbacena, State of Minas Gerais, where he tried his hand at managing a farm. His three sons returned to France to fight after World War II broke out, while he fulminated at his country's 'spiritual exhaustion,' which he saw as the root of its collapse in 1940. From exile he mocked the 'ridiculous' Vichy regime and became a strong supporter of the nationalist Free French Forces led by the conservative Charles De Gaulle. After France's Liberation, De Gaulle invited Bernanos to return to his homeland, offering him a post in the government. Bernanos did return but, disappointed to perceive no signs of spiritual renewal, he declined to play an active role in French political life.