|The Desert of Love
by Francois Mauriac
ForumId UserId Subject PostDate TimesRead Anonymous Body 14 25 THE DESERT OF LOVE by Francois Mauriac 09/07/1998 9:34:47 AM 27 0 "I've been rolling this book around in my brain since I finished it a few nights ago. My thoughts are still not terribly defined, but I want to get them on here, such as they are, so I can get a response.
My initial reaction when I was about one-third of the way through was that the language seemed overwrought, definitely stated in a more dramatic manner than what I'm used to reading. I've wondered if that had to do with the translator or if it was just Mauriac's style.
As I continued to read, however, I was struck by his insights into the characters of, and the relationship between, the father and son. This father-figure who is naturally emotionally isolated, yearns to connect with his son, but can't quite accomplish it is all too familiar in ""real"" life. And, the son's reaction to this father who is sometimes there emotionally, but usually distant, is not at all surprising. I also thought that the Raymond's male adolescent reaction to Maria Cross' advances was classic.
My review on the back cover says that Mauriac ""...has created in Maria Cross one of the most fascinating and enigmatic female characters in modern literature."" Do you all agree? I don't. I thought that the father and son characters were extremely well drawn. I did think that Maria Cross's dilemma in life was well illustrated. But, I must say that I didn't think that I knew Maria Cross at all.
I looked in Homework Helper on Prodigy Classic for information on both Mauriac and this novel. One article from Collier's describes him as ""the outstanding representative of the Catholic renewal in France"" and also says that ""The main theme of Mauriac's works is the struggle between human and divine love and between sin and divine grace."" However, he's also described elsewhere as representative of the psychological novel and I found The Desert of Love to be more representative of this than the former category. There's also a wonderful article on HH regarding reaction to Simone de Beauvoir's (sp?) The Second Sex. Mauriac didn't like it much. One of his quotes was that ""This is the Ipecac they made us swallow as children to induce vomiting.""
" 14 41 THE DESERT OF LOVE by Francois Mauriac 09/07/1998 7:25:33 PM 26 0 "Barb,
Thanks so much for writing the initial note on DESERT OF LOVE. Psychological novels are my favorite kind of fiction and I was anxious to discuss this book with someone.
I know what you mean about the style, which also struck me as a bit overblown and old-fashioned. I thought that maybe I had been spoiled by my recent reads of Nabokov and Fagles. I was surprised to read in the encyclopedia that Mauriac started out as a poet. It could be the translation. Gerard Hopkins translated my Carroll and Graf paperback, but he is the translator that Harold Bloom lists in THE WESTERN CANON, so this is probably as good as it gets without reading the original.
As you pointed out, Mauriac was a deeply religious Catholic, who was primarily concerned with moral issues. This led me to search for the ""moral"" of this story. The story is not overtly didactic, but I do think that Mauriac was trying to show that passion can never satisfy us and that we can find peace only in God. (Of course, the three principals in this story probably would have at least appreciated one lousy opportunity to consummate their passion and find out for sure!)
On page 210, Chapter 12, of my edition Raymond thinks to himself: ""Everything serves as fuel for passion: abstinence sharpens it; repletion strengthens it; virtue keeps it awake and irritates it. It terrifies and it fascinates. But if we yield, our cowardice is never abject enough to satisfy its exigence. It is frantic and a horrible obsession..."" (p.210)
And a few pages later, the author says of Raymond : ""He carried within him a tearing, frantic capability of passion, inherited from his father-of a passion that was all-powerful, that would breed, until he died, still other planetary worlds, other Maria Crosses, of which, in succession, he would become the miserable satellite...There could be no hope for either of them, for father or for son, unless, before they died, He should reveal Himself who, unknown to them, had drawn and summoned from the depths of their beings this burning, bitter tide."" (p.213)
That is about the extent of God's entrance into this story, but the message is there. I don't want to belabor this point too much, because I think that the value of this story really lies in its brilliant insight into the psychology of obsession. Too bad that Ernie is on his European vacation. We could use his expertise here. My feeling is that both father and son are suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, which has a pronounced genetic component. Although I can relate to parts of all three of these characters (yes, I am ashamed to admit, even Raymond), such a life long obsession with what is, in essence, a figment of one's imagination, is not normal. I am sure that many of us have gone through a temporary phase like this, most likely when we were teenagers, but we moved beyond it. Neither Paul nor his son are able to do this. Raymond even recognizes that if he were not obsessed with Maria, it would be someone else. To some degree, they are very susceptible to obsession with an unattainable love object because their lives are so completely empty, i.e. an emotional ""desert."". God might have provided some release from the churning and rechurning of their obsessive thoughts, but so would modern medication
Barb, I agree with you that the relationship between the father and son is portrayed very well. The father especially wants to reach out to the son and communicate with him, but he finds it impossible to find the words. True intimacy seems out of the question for him. At the same time, the son is able to sense that his father is different from the rest of the family and that he really loves him, even if they cannot communicate directly. I think that is often the way it is between fathers and sons, and parents and children in general. The father is such a good man that the reader can't help but like him, but his son seems like the proverbial bad seed, born to be bad. At the end of the book, the father concludes that at heart both he and his son are alike and equally guilty of making the mother suffer. ""Oh, I know my orgies never went beyond daydreaming, but does that make it any better?"" Paul asks his son on p. 207 (the old lust in my heart quandry). To which I can only reply, yes!
I certainly did not find Maria to be ""one of the most fascinating and enigmatic female characters in modern literature."" There wasn't a lot to her. She was very pretty, which in the long run probably worked to her disadvantage, she was lazy, and she excelled at lying to herself. She liked the idea of romantic love and the thought of being cuddled and kissed, but sex repulsed her. As was true of the other characters, the mental image of her love object bore very little relationship to reality. She needed to think of Raymond as an innocent young boy (yeah, right), just as Paul needed to think of her as a woman who was honest about her failings and sincerely striving to improve herself, while Raymond needed to think of her as a sexy slut. Of course, Raymond liked Maria more when she was absent than when she was present, which perhaps boded ill for the relationship.
Barb, I loved that quote about THE SECOND SEX. Those French intellectuals could be viscous. The New Yorker article this summer about de Beauvoir quoted some nasty remarks by de Beauvoir about Gide and Mauriac, but unfortunately - G - I seem to have thrown my copy out.
" 14 38 THE DESERT OF LOVE by Francois Mauriac 09/07/1998 9:58:45 PM 35 0 "Oh, Ann, our wayward fingers lead us into such hilarious corners. Viscous French intellectuals indeed. The mind boggles. You've given me my chuckle of the Evening.
" 14 25 THE DESERT OF LOVE by Francois Mauriac 09/09/1998 5:34:43 PM 27 0 "Ann,
Thanks so much for that very thoughtful note. It really spurred my thinking.
Before reading this book, did you know that Mauriac was considered an intensely religious, Catholic writer? I didn't and wasn't struck by that quality (in a traditional sense anyway) when reading this. I was struck by the sense that pleasure, temptation, etc. are bottomless pits which bode no good, sort of a feeling of lurking evil. However, I didn't perceive God lurking to deal out our punishment...instead, it was as if man himself was providing the worst fate. Does that make sense?
I got the feeling when reading the little bit that was available about him on HH that his other books had a more obviously religious base. However, they also said that his was a nonconformist, sometimes controversial Catholicism. I wonder if that is because it is so interwoven with the psychological. It seems that somewhere else I saw that he considered nature inherently a threat to man. I wonder if that means nature, as in mankind in its psychologically natural state, or in a more traditional sense.
I also found it deliciously ironic that Maria, who excited such fantasies in father and son as well as the entire village's gossipers, did not seem to like the reality of sex at all. I somehow assumed that Mauriac thought this to be a feminine trait, but, from a 90's vantage point, it makes me want to laugh out loud.
" 14 41 THE DESERT OF LOVE by Francois Mauriac 09/09/1998 8:09:21 PM 27 0 "Ruth,
Just goes to show the limits of spell checkers, doesn't it? -G-
Yes, I did know that Mauriac was religious.
The very positive blurb from the Catholic World on the first page of my paperback was a big hint. Here it is:
""This translation into English of one of Mauriac's outstanding early novels comes with the impact of a book strictly contemporary with our own times...One sees again that M. Mauriac, who surely ranks among the very greatest of novelists in this century, is the aphoristic novelist par excellence. This Pascal of novelists, as Graham Greene calls him, unites again and again the specific incidents of his story with superb reflections and generalizations about the human heart.""
I don't know when this was written. The English translation was first published in 1951, which may be why it no longer seems quite so modern. Mauriac was a Nobel prize winner. Not having read any of his other works, I couldn't comment on his place in literary history.
I never had the impression that Mauriac believed in a punitive God. Rather, I thought that he showed a great deal of sympathy for his characters' weaknesses and their suffering. My interpretation was that he thought that they could have peace only by turning to God.
Having quite pronounced obsessive tendencies myself (although fortunately they do not center on other people), I was struck by Mauriac's understanding of the psychology of obsession. Naturally, (I know you will understand this, Barb - G -), it makes me very curious about Mauriac himself. A trip to the library may be in order, although it probably won't be until next week.
Here are a few quotes from the book that I particularly enjoyed:
""But Courreges had made it a rule never to let himself suffer because of the behavior of others--whether mistresses or friends.""
""He held it against this father of his that it was less easy to despise him than the other members of his family.""
""This powerlessness to give expression to his feelings was his habitual martyrdom.""
""Tangled in her clumsy efforts at tenderness, she was, as it were, always groping her way forward with outstretched hands. But whenever she touched him it was to bruise.""
""Defeat comes to the young because they let themselves be so easily convinced of their own wretched inadequacy. At seventeen the most undisciplined of boys is only too ready to accept the image of himself imposed by others.""
""We are, all of us, molded and remolded by those who have loved us, and though that love may pass, we remain none the less their work--a work that very likely they do not recognize, and which is never exactly what they intended. No love, no friendship can ever cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark upon it forever.""
""it is not death that tears from us those we love; rather, it keeps them safe, preserving them in all the adorable ambiance of youth. Death is the salt of love: it is life that brings corruption.""
Hmm, I guess that it what the Catholic World meant by an ""aphoristic"" novelist. At any rate, I found much to underline.
I'm hoping Sherry will join the discussion soon, since she originally suggested this book.
" 14 22 THE DESERT OF LOVE by Francois Mauriac 09/10/1998 4:28:36 PM 25 0 "I’m home from the North Woods and back to my big computer, so it’s easier to post. I have to admit that although I recommended this book, and I am pretty sure I have read it and liked it, not one word sounded familiar. Maybe my memory played a trick on me. Also, I went into this supposed second reading without knowing one iota about Mauriac or about his being a “Catholic” writer. And except for one sentence, the one you quoted earlier something to the effect of “putting everything into His hands” which puzzled me, I had no idea Mauriac was being religious. I must be a little thick. TDOFL struck me as being a psychological study of three people stuck in a time and place that allowed only extremes of behavior. If you are a mistress, you stay one and even have to live within the rules of mistresses, or be expelled from the only society open to you. If you are a doctor or a father, you behave a certain way. No giving in to romantic notions, or if you do, do it only in your fancies and then pay the mental consequences. If you are a wife, you nag, and are expected to, so any little reaching out is not noticed and eventually not even tried. And even when the reaching out is tried, it fails, because nagging is such a habit, it’s hard notto. By showing us the deep inner life of the characters as contrasted to their outer pretensions, Mauriac shows the havoc such an imbalance plays on the souls and minds of his characters. To my mind finding the proper balance has nothing to do with religion, but I guess it can to a lot of people.
Strangely enough, I was looking on the Internet for something totally unrelated and came across an article about Mauriac. I’m putting up a part of the article, because it is long, but if you want more, let me know.
SALVATION, DAMNATION AND THE RELIGIOUS NOVEL
Date: December 2, 1984, Sunday, Late City Final Edition
IN a savagely witty review of one of Francois Mauriac's books some years ago Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, ''God is not a novelist. Neither is M. Mauriac.'' Sartre objected to the way he thought Mauriac curtailed his characters' freedom, confining them in the claustral atmosphere of a faith that dictated their choices; and this, or some variation of it, has been the traditional criticism of religious novelists, in particular Catholic ones. George Orwell wrote, ''The novel is a Protestant art form, requiring the free play of mind. There are few Catholic novelists who are any good, and most of them are bad Catholics.'' He was surely using ''Protestant'' in its historical or secular sense, not as a description of an active type of faith; from his own position of radical secularism, he was really indicting any novelistic stance of belief, however beleaguered, in transcendence and deity.
The great irony surrounding Mauriac is that for most of his career he was subjected to attack from within his own religion. Orthodox Catholic commentators found him dangerous because of his ''secret sympathy (and) connivance with sin,'' as one critic wrote. Beyond that, he had to deal with the charge Orwell made: To the extent that he was a good novelist, he would have to have been a bad Catholic. Andre Gide wrote in this vein in his journal for 1931, ''If Mauriac had been a more perfect Christian he would not have had subject matter for his books''; and he wrote to Mauriac that ''the object of your novels is not so much to bring sinners to Christianity as to remind Christians that there is something on earth besides heaven. . . . Doubtless if I were more of a Christian I would be less your disciple.''
Sherry in Milwaukee
" 14 33 THE DESERT OF LOVE by Francois Mauriac 09/10/1998 11:07:21 PM 24 0 """Desert of Love"" was originally recommended back when Ann was taking suggestions for this year's reading list by a person [name forgotten] who never posted another post. He popped in, reco'd this book, and disappeared.
Sherry may have also recommended it, but that was the very first mention.
And why on earth do I allow useless knowledge to occupy space in my mind?
Theresa, still travelling with Telemachus
" 14 41 THE DESERT OF LOVE by Francois Mauriac 09/11/1998 11:12:14 AM 26 0 "Sherry,
Thanks for a different perspective on DOL. There is a lot to be said for the idea that these characters were very much stuck in their roles. The times (apparently right before the First World War) did not allow nearly as much personal freedom as our own, especially for women. There were limited ways, for example, that Maria, left a young widow with a sick child, could provide for herself. And while the doctor's wife and daughter were unsympathetic characters, we probably shouldn't be too surprised that they found little to do but argue about the servants. They didn't have much else to occupy their time.
All of us get into ruts with our personal behavior, and it is very difficult to break out of them and change. The wife wanted to be closer to her husband, but she sensed his rejection and couldn't seem to get out of that nagging mode, accompanied by petty criticism of everyone else in her small world. It's not easy being the wife of a doctor, especially one so absorbed in his work who is idolized by his patients. My mother was in that position.
You know, I have a tendency to find what I am looking for when I read - G -, so I probably overemphasized the religious implications of this novel. There were only a couple of other references to the divinity. In Chapter 3 (p. 42), Mauriac says of the doctor's mother, who is thinking about her son:
""Ever since he was a young man she had got into the way of guessing the precise nature of those wounds which one person alone, the owner of the hand that deals them, can cure.""
I assumed this was a reference to God, since otherwise I couldn't make any sense of it.
Also, in Chapter 12 right after a portion I quoted before (p. 211), Raymond asks himself. ""Of what use is a virtuous existence? What way of escape can it provide? What power has God over passion?""
That's pretty much it for religious references. Mauriac certainly asks a lot more questions than he provides answers. He doesn't provide much hope for his characters, other than the merest suggestion that God could have helped them.
In fact, if this book had an afterward, this is what I think would have happened to the principals:
The doctor would keel over from a fatal heart attack within a couple of months. His final moments would be filled with the realization that he had wasted his life and relief that he didn't have to go on any more.
His wife would find more contentment as the widow of a respected doctor than she ever had as his spouse.
Raymond would become involved in petty crime and deviant sex. (If he wasn't already)
Maria would become increasingly obsessed with her stepson, who may or may not have been in reality the innocent boy that was her favorite fantasy object.
What do you think would have happened?
" 14 25 THE DESERT OF LOVE by Francois Mauriac 09/12/1998 8:52:10 AM 22 0 "I found the quote in the article on Simone de Beauvoir in the 8/24 & 31 Nyer (I don't think I'm as good a housekeeper as you are, Ann). The author of the article is quoting and paraphrasing the flow of the letters as de Beauvoir's affair with Algren loses steam.
The day after Gide's death, ""the poet Anne-Marie Cazalis sends a telegram to the Catholic writer Francois Mauriac, who, along with the poet Paul claudel, was among Gide's arch-enemies: 'HELL DOES NOT EXIST. MAY ENJOY YOURSELF. TELL CLAUDEL. ANDRE GIDE.'""
In the article on Homework Helper (on Prodigy Classic) about the reactions to de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, there are a number of interesting references to the controversies between Sarte, Gide, deBeauvoir and Mauriac. It sounded as if Sarte disdained Mauriac's writing and wanted to proclaim it from the rooftops. But, Mauriac also came first (I think) and was one of the literary elders that Sarte was duty-bound to decimate with existentialism. Actually, following my own personal obsession, Ann, I'd like to read about that whole era. My interest was originally pricked by the article in the NYer on deBeauvoir and continues with our reading on this book.
My guesses on the fates of these characters coincide with yours for an Afterward, Ann.
Whether or not the stepson was an innocent, I think that Maria's own emotional needs would require that her perception of him as that continue. The earlier scene when Maria has been indulging in her dreamy ideas of what her first contacts with Raymond would be contrasted with his adolescent aggressiveness egged on by his friends was one of the most poignant in the novel for me. Later, Raymond expresses something to the effect that he could've been that dreamy person if only she had told him that this is what she wanted. In any case, I'm sure that no one in this book was heading toward a happy fate. Do you think that Mauriac has such a thing as a happy ending -G-?
Sherry, thanks so much for printing that article. I haven't found lots of things about Mauriac. And, I agree with you that everyone seemed to be stuck in their roles, sort of flailing around inside their own little jars. The time when the doctor's wife tried not to nag and just naturally fell right back into it was particularly sad to me, even though she was such a secondary character.
Also, this is one of those books that is resonating more for me after the read than during it...probably at least partially because of this discussion. Anyone else having the same reaction?
" 14 41 THE DESERT OF LOVE by Francois Mauriac 09/14/1998 7:43:23 PM 18 0 "Barb,
Thanks for tracking down that quote in the New Yorker article about Simone de Beauvoir. That article was downright fascinating. I'm glad you directed our attention to that issue on CR. What bizarre relationships she had, especially with Sartre, who came off as downright disgusting and the lover (?) whom she adopted as her daughter. I'm guessing that Mauriac disapproved of their life style, together with their philosophy.
Ann, who has never been accused of being a good housekeeper before. Hey, I kind of like the idea. - G -
" 14 25 THE DESERT OF LOVE by Francois Mauriac 09/16/1998 5:27:45 PM 20 0 "It's all in the perspective, Ann -G-.
de Beauvoir was truly odd. Her relationship with Sarte seemed to glow with self-hatred and yet, elsewhere, she seemed totally self-possessed. I guess it's another example of the contradiction between the public and private self...and the fact that anything that's human is rarely logical.
" 14 41 THE DESERT OF LOVE by Francois Mauriac 09/16/1998 7:45:47 PM 23 0 "I checked out Mauriac in CONTEMPORARY LITERARY CRITICISM and wondered what you thought, Barb and Sherry, of the following remarks by Gene Kellogg. The following was quoted in CLC from Kellog's ""Francois Mauriac,"" in his THE VITAL TRADITION: THE CATHOLIC NOVEL IN A PERIOD OF CONVERGENCE:
""The DESERT OF LOVE shows more than creatures overcome by greed or possessiveness. It depicts them drawn by a blind longing for good, which they cannot understand and which they distort, but which also touches them inescapably...
The DESERT OF LOVE reveals itself as a 'Catholic novel' long before the Catholic ending in Maria's conversion, for the whole story depends on the Catholic idea that human beings seek the love of God behind all earthly loves...""
Do you think we read the same book? - G -
Ann " 14 22 THE DESERT OF LOVE by Francois Mauriac 09/16/1998 10:22:32 PM 26 0 "Ann,
It beats me what book those guys were reading. Maria's conversion? Whaaaa...? It seems to me this is a case of finding what you are looking for, and those people were looking for a Catholic book. Since I was reading it...dumdedum, with no idea in the world that it was supposed to be ""Catholic"", I just found three sad people who were unrealistic in their idea of the ideal.
" 14 25 THE DESERT OF LOVE by Francois Mauriac 09/19/1998 8:32:19 AM 20 0 "Where was Maria's conversion?!? I find myself missing details that I should have noticed, but how did I miss this one? Is the reviewer assuming that her manner in the latter part of the book is a conversion?
And, I think that the characters were striving to do the best they could and still fulfill their drives. My first thought is that their drives were sexual, but they were actually drives to combat their deep loneliness as much as anything else.
I wonder when this review was written.
" 14 64 THE DESERT OF LOVE by Francois Mauriac 09/19/1998 9:19:41 AM 22 0 "The conversion of Maria in the last chapter may have just been her decision to marry Larouselle and tolerate him rather than searching for some sort of romantic ideal. At first blush it might appear that she is beginning to obsess about Bertrand, but I wonder if Bertrand might not be the one who is turning her toward God.
I am surprised to see that Maria seems unlikely to most of you. From a male perspective she seems quite likely.
The whole business of picking up a teenager on a bus, inviting him to her house when her ""husband"" and servants are gone, and then being surprised when he makes a clumsy pass seems to relate to a lot of things men experience with women. What she really wanted to happen in that meeting is quite enigmatic to me.
My best guess, being a mere man, is that she was looking to have a wild passionate affair without any of the consequences of having a wild passionate affair. As our adultery impaired President can attest, this is not a strictly female problem.
In any case, I enjoyed the book and was glad someone out there in cyberspace recommended it.
" 14 38 THE DESERT OF LOVE by Francois Mauriac 09/19/1998 11:13:39 AM 28 0 "What was surprising to me was just how old-fashioned the writing in this book was--all those breathless descriptions of overheated emotions. Just a little way in, I found myself turning back to the copyright to see what year this book was written, and was amazed at how recent it was.
I think the writing style was what ruined the book for me. It's just not a style that I take kindly to any more--perhaps another reason why I have less patience with 19thc novels than I used to.
I'd been forewarned by all of you to look for the Catholicism, but I sure didn't find it either. Maybe it takes a Catholic? As for the last chapter--it left me bumfuzzled in some ways. Not sure of the significance of it all.
" 14 41 THE DESERT OF LOVE by Francois Mauriac 09/20/1998 10:09:58 PM 22 0 "The book I quoted from was written in 1970. I must confess that I did think that there were indications that Maria had turned to religion. Keep in mind that I am the product of 13 years of Catholic education, which I have not entirely shaken. - G -
Still, I never considered this a genuine ""conversion"", but rather a somewhat sad attempt to please her stepson, with whom she was obviously infatuated. But then again, this could be my own preconceptions at work, which are obviously different from those of the Catholic interpreter whom I quoted.
Here is what made me think that Maria has gone religious. First of all, she seems to idolize her stepson and consider him her mentor. If Bertrand suggests something - marry her lover, humor him by going out on the town with him - Maria does her duty and complies. We know that Bertrand is deeply religious. Maria will do anything to please Bertrand. Ergo, Maria is religious. In Chapter 11, Raymond examines Bertand's room. There are no curtains. Apparently its owner wants to waken ""before the sounding of the earliest bell(to pray?). Raymond was entirely insensitive to all the evidences of a life of purity. In this room designed for prayer he could see merely a cunning peace of trickery...""
After he leaves, Maria goes into Saint Bertrand room and prays. ""The mingled smell of tobacco and the human body filled her with a cold fury: I must have been mad to let him come in here!...She opened the windows to let in the cold air of dawn, and knelt down for a moment at the head of the bed. Her lips moved. She buried her face in the pillow.""
So, does this constitute a religious conversion? It seems like a stretch, even to me.
Barb, I think that you are right about the overwhelming loneliness of these three people. Jim, I fully agree with you about Maria. She is in fact quite familiar to me also. There are unfortunately still many women who dream of romance, but are repelled by actual sex. They must strike men as terrible teases. Presumably their ranks have been thinned considerably by the sexual revolution. And Ruth, the writing of DOL didn't impress me either, but I thought that the book had a lot of psychological truth, and that's what I liked about it.
" 14 64 THE DESERT OF LOVE by Francois Mauriac 09/21/1998 12:19:25 AM 20 0 "When I was young I might have thought of Maria as a ""tease"", but right now she appears as someone who is just as confused as the rest of humanity.
Maybe for my thesis in French literature, I'll have to compare and contrast her with Emma Bovary, who, if I recall, was a little more active.
Say, where's Jane in all of this? I expected her to chip in some expert opinions
" 14 29 THE DESERT OF LOVE by Francois Mauriac 09/21/1998 6:27:14 PM 17 0 "Francois Mauriac
""Father died when Mauriac was an infant, and he was raised by an intensely pious mother ... Published first book of poems at his own expense... First novels to win success: Le baiser au lepreux, (1922, A Kiss for the Leper)... Writing chiefly of French provincial families, he spares nothing in his portrayal of his characters' meanness, avarice, destructive hatred and envy, the continuing conflict between man's struggle with evil and his desire for God's grace, and the frustration of stifling bourgeois conventions...The Knot of Vipers, 1933, considered his masterpiece...Also wrote...A Life of Jesus...His immense gifts as a novelist of limpidly classical style and profound understanding of human psychology won him many honors, including membership in French Academy (1933) and Nobel prize for fiction (1952).""
from Atlantic Brief Lives: A Biographical Companion to the Arts,Little Brown and Company, 1965
The writer means, of course, the Nobel prize for Literature.
" 14 25 THE DESERT OF LOVE by Francois Mauriac 09/26/1998 11:55:22 AM 20 0 "Hmmm...Mauriac had no father and was raised by an intensely pious mother. It's all just too obvious in this age of psychology, isn't it?