Paul Claudel (August 6, 1868 – February 23, 1955) was a French poet, dramatist and diplomat. He was most famous for his verse dramas, which often convey his devout Catholicism. He was born in Villeneuve-sur-Fère (Aisne), into a family of farmers and government officials. Having spent his first years in Champagne, he studied at the lycée of Bar-le-Duc and at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in 1881, when his parents moved to Paris. An unbeliever in his teenage years, he experienced a sudden conversion at the age of eighteen on Christmas Day 1886 while listening to a choir sing Vespers in the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. He would remain a strong Catholic for the rest of his life. He studied at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (better known as Sciences Po).
The young Claudel seriously considered entering a Benedictine monastery, but in the end began a career in the French diplomatic corps, in which he would serve from 1893 to 1936. He was first vice-consul in New York (April 1893), and later in Boston (December 1893). He was French consul in China (1895–1909), including consul in Shanghai (June 1895), and vice-consul in Fuzhou (October 1900), consul in Tianjin (Tientsin) (1906–1909), in Prague (December 1909), Frankfurt am Main (October 1911), Hamburg (October 1913), ministre plénipotentiaire in Rio de Janeiro (1916), Copenhagen (1920), ambassador in Tokyo (1922–1928), Washington, D.C. (1928–1933) and Brussels (1933–1936). While he served in Brazil during the First World War he supervised the continued provision of food supplies from South America to France. In 1930, Claudel received an LL.D. from Bates College. In 1936, he retired to his château in Brangues (Isère).
In his youth Claudel was heavily influenced by the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud and the Symbolists. All his writings are passionate rejections of the idea of a mechanical or random universe, instead proclaiming the deep spiritual meaning of human life founded on God's all-governing grace and love. Claudel wrote in a unique verse style. He rejected traditional metrics in favor of long, luxuriant, unrhymed lines of free verse, the so-called verset claudelien, influenced by the Latin psalms of the Vulgate. His plays were often extraordinarily long, sometimes stretching to eleven hours, and pressed the realities of material staging to their limits. The most famous of his plays are Le Partage de Midi ("The Break of Noon," 1906), L'Annonce Faite a Marie ("The Tidings Brought to Mary," 1910), and Le Soulier de Satin ("The Satin Slipper," 1931).
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Acquisition Note: Source: Gift of Max Kahn, in memory of Alice Hahn Goodman.
Originally laid in L'annonce Faite à Marie by Paul Claudel. PQ2605 L2 A8 1929
Accession number 1686
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