Jean Anouilh  

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Jean Anouilh (June 23, 1910October 3, 1987) was a French dramatist.

Life and work

He was born in Cérisole, a small village on the outskirts of Bordeaux and had Basque ancestry. His father was a tailor and Anouilh maintained that he inherited from him a pride in conscientious craftmanship. He may owe his artistic bent to his mother, a violinist who supplemented the family's meager income by playing summer seasons in the casino orchestra in the nearby seaside resort of Arcachon.

Anouilh attended the école primaire supérieure where he received his secondary education at the Collège Chaptal. Jean-Louis Barrault, later a major French director, was a pupil there at the same time and recalls Anouilh as an intense, rather dandified figure who hardly noticed a lad some two years younger than himself. Anouilh enrolled as a law student in the University of Paris, only to abandon the course after just eighteen months when he found employment in the advertising industry. He liked the work and spoke more than once with wry approval of the lessons in the classical virtues of brevity and precision of language he learned while drafting copy.

In 1932, his first play, L’Hermine, written in 1929, flopped, but he followed it up with a string of others. He struggled through years of poverty producing several plays until he eventually wound up as secretary to the great actor-director Louis Jouvet. He quickly discovered he could not get along with this gruff man and left his company. During the Nazi occupation of France, Anouilh did not openly take sides, though he published the play Antigone, often viewed as his most famous work. The play criticises - in an allegorical manner - collaborationism with the Nazis. Mostly keeping aloof from politics, Anouilh also clashed with de Gaulle in the 1950s. Anouilh himself grouped his plays on the basis of their dominant tone: "black" (tragedies and realistic plays), "pink" (where fantasy dominates), "brilliant" ('pink' and 'black' combined in aristocratic environments), "jarring" ('black' plays with bitter humour), "costumed" (historical characters feature), "baroque", and my failures (mes fours)<ref></ref>.

He was an outstanding writer with a unique ability to craft a wide spectrum of brilliant masterpieces. In 1970 his work was recognized with the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca.

Anouilh married actress Monelle Valentin in 1931. But, soon after he had a child, he died in Lausanne, Switzerland.


In many of his plays, Jean Anouilh presents his reader with a striking and ineluctable dichotomy between idealism and realism. Pucciani tells us that "in Anouilh, no middle ground of ambiguity exists where this conflict is resolved." This can be seen in his play Le Voyageur Sans Bagage, where the main character Gaston, is a WWI veteran who suffers from amnesia. He does not remember his past that was filled with his moral depravity (he slept with his brother's wife and severely injured his best friend, among examples). This moral depravity is invariably at odds with the extreme purity that he now exhibits and is the antithesis of his past. In another play L'Hermine, the main character finds himself in a world that is hostile to his romantic idealism. In L'Hermine, love is made to fight an inexorable and futile battle against money, social status, ambition, and lax morals.

This is the essence of what Jean Anouilh offers us: a battle between idealism and realism - man, a hopeless romantic, is locked in a perpetual battle against a society that his hostile to his purity. In his Pièces Roses, the protagonist finds a compromise - not an ideal one - but an acceptable accommodation with which he can live his life. But in Anouilh's 'Pièces Noires', the battle is lost from the beginning and the character is doomed to a harrowing fate.


  • L'Hermine (The Ermine) (1931)
  • Mandarine (1933)
  • Y avait un prisonnier (There Was a Prisoner) (1935)
  • Le voyageur sans bagage (Traveller without Luggage) (1937)
  • La sauvage (Restless Heart) (1938)
  • Le Bal des Voleurs (Thieves' Carnival) (1938)
  • Léocadia (Time Remembered) (1940)
  • Eurydice (Point of Departure and Legend of Lovers) (1941)
  • Le rendez-vous de Senlis (The Rendezvous at Senlis and Dinner with the Family) (1941)
  • Antigone (1942)
  • Roméo et Jeannette (Romeo and Jeannette) (1946)
  • Médée (Medea) (1946)
  • L'Invitation au Château (Ring Round the Moon) (1947)
  • Ardèle ou la Marguerite (Ardèle; The Cry of the Peacock) (Paris, J.-J. Pauvert (Les Cinéastes bibliophiles) 1948)
  • La répétition ou l'amour puni (The Rehearsal) (1950)
  • Colombe (Mademoiselle Colombe) (1951)
  • La valse des toréadors (The Waltz of the Toreadors) (1952)
  • L'Alouette (The Lark) (1952)
  • Ornifle ou le courant d'air (Ornifle or It's Later than you Think) (1955)
  • Pauvre Bitos ou le dîner de têtes (Poor Bitos, or The Masked Dinner) (1956)
  • L'hurluberlu ou le réactionnaire amoureux (The Fighting Cock) (1959)
  • La petite Molière (1959)
  • Becket ou l'honneur de Dieu (Becket or The Honor of God) (1959)
  • La Grotte (The Cavern) (1961)
  • Le boulanger, la boulangère et le petit mitron (1968)
  • Cher Antoine; ou l'amour raté (Dear Antoine; or The Love that Failed) (1969)
  • Les poissons rouges; ou Mon père, ce héros (The Goldfish) (1970)
  • Tu étais si gentil quand tu étais petit (You Were So Nice When You Were Young) (1972)
  • Monsieur Barnett (1974)
  • L'Arrestation (1975)
  • Chers zoizeaux (1976)
  • Vive Henri IV (1978)
  • La Culotte (1978)
  • La Foire d'empoigne (Catch as Catch Can) (1979)
  • Le Nombril (The Navel) (1981)

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