Henri Barbusse  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Henri Barbusse (May 17, 1873, Asnières-sur-SeineAugust 30, 1935, Moscow) was a French novelist, journalist and communist. He is best known for this book Hell, the story of a voyeur.


He came to fame with the publication of his novel Le Feu (translated as Under Fire) in 1916, which was based on his experiences during World War I. It shows his growing hatred of militarism and drew criticism at the time for its harsh naturalism. His book won the Prix Goncourt.

His later works, Manifeste aux Intellectuels, Elevations (1930) and others show a more revolutionary standpoint. Of these, the 1921 Le Couteau entre les dents (The Knife Between the Teeth) marks Barbusse's siding with Bolshevism and the October Revolution; he joined the French Communist Party in 1923 and later travelled to the Soviet Union. He was a member of the League against Imperialism created in Brussels in 1927.

An associate of Romain Rolland and editor of Clarté, he attempted to define a proletarian literature, akin to Proletkult and Socialist realism. Barbusse was a Stalinist and the author of a 1936 biography of Joseph Stalin, titled Staline. Un monde nouveau vu à travers un homme (Stalin. A New World Seen Through the Man). The book was a Western equivalent of the Soviet personality cult and Barbusse led a violent press campaign against his former friend Panait Istrati - a Romanian writer who had expressed criticism of the Soviet state.

He is buried in Le Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.

In the foreword to I saw it Happen, a 1942 collection of eye-witness accounts of the war, Lewis Gannet wrote: "(...) We shall be hearing and reading of this war for decades to come. No one of us can yet guess who will be its Tolstoys, its Barbusses, its Remarques and its Hemingways".


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