Valery Larbaud  

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

Valery Larbaud (29 August 1881 Vichy – 2 February 1957 Vichy) was a French writer.



He was born in Vichy, Allier, the only child of a pharmacist. His father died when he was 8, and he was brought up by his mother and aunt. His father had been owner of the Vichy Saint-Yorre mineral water springs, and the family fortune assured him an easy life. He travelled Europe in style. On luxury liners and the Orient Express he carried off the dandy role, with spa visits to nurse fragile health.

Poèmes par un riche amateur, published in 1908, received Octave Mirbeau's vote for Prix Goncourt. Three years later, his novel Fermina Márquez, inspired by his days as a boarder at Sainte-Barbe-des-Champs at Fontenay-aux-Roses, had some Prix Goncourt votes in 1911.

He spoke six languages including English, Italian and Spanish. In France he helped translate and popularise Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Walt Whitman, Samuel Butler, and James Joyce, whose Ulysses was translated by Auguste Morel (1924-1929) under Larbaud's supervision.

At home in Vichy, he saw as friends Charles-Louis Philippe, André Gide, Léon-Paul Fargue and Jean Aubry, his future biographer. An attack of hemiplegia and aphasia in 1935 left him paralysed. Having spent his fortune, he had to sell his property and 15,000 book library. Despite his illness, he continued to receive many honorary titles, and in 1952 he was awarded the Prix National des Lettres.

The Prix Littéraire Valery Larbaud was created in 1957 by L'Association Internationale des Amis de Valery Larbaud, a group created to promote the author's work. Past winners of this yearly award include J.M.G. Le Clézio, Jacques Réda, Emmanuel Carrère, and Jean Rolin.

Georges Perec's character Bartlebooth is a cross between Melville's Bartleby and Larbaud's Barnabooth.


  • "Lend me your vast noise, your vast gentle speed, your nightly slipping through a lighted Europe, O luxury train! And the agonizing music that sounds the length of your gilt corridors, while behind the japanned doors with heavy copper latches sleep the millionaires . . ."


  • Poèmes par un riche amateur (1908) as A.O. Barnabooth.
  • Fermina Márquez (1911)
  • A.O. Barnabooth (1913)
  • Enfantines (1918)
  • Beauté, mon beau souci (1920)
  • Amants, heureux amants (1923)
  • Ce Vice impuni la lecture (1925)
  • Jaune bleu blanc (1927)
  • Aux couleurs de Rome (1938)
  • Sous l'invocation de Saint Jerome (1946)
  • Pléiade edition (1957)


  • France, Peter (Ed.) (1995). The New Oxford Companion to Literature in French. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-866125-8.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Valery Larbaud" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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