Maurice Barrès  

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"Que me parlez-vous de justice, d’humanité ! Qu’est-ce j’aime, moi ? quelques tableaux en Europe et quelques cimetières." --cited in Benda's The Betrayal of the Intellectuals (1927)

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

Maurice Barrès (September 22, 1862 - December 4, 1923) was a French occultist, novelist, journalist, an anti-semite nationalist and socialist politician and agitator.

Born at Charmes-sur-Moselle, Vosges, he received his secondary education at the lycée of Nancy, and in 1883 went to Paris to continue his legal studies. He had already started contributing to the monthly periodical, Jeune France, and he now issued a periodical of his own, Les Taches d'encre, which survived for a few months only. After four years of journalism he went to Italy, where he wrote Sous l'œil des barbares (1888), the first volume of a trilogie du moi (also called Le Culte du moi or The Cult of the Ego), completed by Un Homme libre (1889), and Le Jardin de Bérénice (1891). Barrès divided the world into moi (myself) and the barbarians, the latter including all those antipathetic to the writer's narcissism.

He supplemented these apologies for his narcissism with L'Ennemi des lois (1892), and with an admirable volume of impressions of travel, Du sang, de la volupté, de la mort (1893). Barrès wrote his early books in an elaborate and often very obscure style. He carried his theory "du moi" into politics as an ardent partisan of General Boulanger. He directed a Boulangist paper at Nancy, and was elected deputy in 1889 under a platform of "Nationalism, Protectionism, and Socialism," retaining his seat in the legislature until 1893.

The Comédie Française produced his play Une Journée parlementaire in 1894. In 1897 he began his trilogy, Le Roman de l'énergie nationale, with the publication of Les Déracinés. The series makes a plea for local patriotism, and for the preservation of the distinctive qualities of the old French provinces. Les Déracinés narrates the adventures of seven young Lorrainers who set out to conquer fortune in Paris. Six of them survive in the second novel of the trilogy, L'Appel au soldat (1900), which gives the history of Boulangism; the sequel, Leurs figures (1902), deals with the Panama scandals. Later works include:

  • Scènes et doctrines du nationalisme (1902)
  • Les Amitiés françaises (1903), in which he urges the inculcation of patriotism by the early study of national history
  • Ce que j'ai vu à Rennes (1904)
  • Au service de l'Allemagne (1905), the experiences of an Alsatian conscript in a German regiment
  • Le Voyage de Sparte (1906).

The Académie française admitted Barrès as a member in 1906. His son Philippe Barrès followed him in a journalism career.

See also

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