Roger Martin du Gard
(1881 - 1958)
French author and winner of the 1937 Nobel Prize for Literature. Trained
as a paleographer and archivist, Martin du Gard brought to his works
a spirit of objectivity and a scrupulous regard for details. For his
concern with documentation and with the relationship of social reality
to individual development, he has been linked with the realist and naturalist
traditions of the 19th century.
Martin du Gard first attracted attention with Jean Barois (1913), which
traced the development of an intellectual torn between the Roman Catholic
faith of his childhood and the scientific materialism of his maturity;
it also described the full impact of the Dreyfus affair on French minds.
He is best known for the eight-part novel cycle Les Thibault (1922-40;
parts 1-6 as The Thibaults; parts 7-8 as Summer 1914). This record of
a family's development chronicles the social and moral issues confronting
the French bourgeoisie from the turn of the 19th century to World War
I. Reacting against a bourgeois patriarch, the younger son, Jacques,
renounces his Roman Catholic past to embrace revolutionary socialism,
and the elder son, Antoine, accepts his middle-class heritage but loses
faith in its religious foundation. Both sons eventually die in World
War I. The outstanding features of Les Thibaults are the wide range
of human relationships patiently explored, the graphic realism of the
sickbed and death scenes, and, in the seventh volume, L'Ete 1914 ("Summer
1914"), the dramatic description of Europe's nations being swept
Other works by Martin du Gard include Vielle France (1933; The Postman),
biting sketches of French country life, and Notes sur Andre Gide (1951;
Recollections of Andre Gide), a candid study of the author, who was
his friend. Martin du Gard also wrote a somber drama about repressed
homosexuality, Un Taciturne (1931; "A Silent Man"), and two
farces of French peasant life, Le Testament du pere Leleu (1914; "Old
Leleu's Will") and La Gonfle (1928; "The Swelling").
In 1941 he began work on Le Journal du colonel de Maumort, a vast novel
that he hoped would prove to be his masterpiece, but it was still unfinished
at his death.
David L. Schalk, Roger Martin du Gard: The Novelist and History (1967),
examines the life and works of Martin du Gard.