Henry Cérard

idéaliste détrompé
by Ronald Frazee
rrp $31.12

Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division

Series: University of Toronto Romance Series

Publication Date: September 22, 2017

ISBN: 9781487597269

Binding: Kobo eBook

Availability: eBook

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Here for the first time is an authoritative account of the life and literary activity of a long-neglected writer of the French naturalist school. Its appearance now is especially timely in view of the recent revival of interest in Zola, Maupassant and Huysmans, and the publication of the complete Goncourt Journals.

Cérard's written works were virtually neglected by his contemporaries as well as by most historians of the naturalist movement. However, his novels, short stories, and plays had good critical receptions, and in providing this study of the author, as well as a comprehensive bibliography of all his works, Mr. Frazee is performing a valuable service for students of literature.

As an artist Cérard was perhaps less powerful than Zola or Goncourt, but one appreciates, as Mr. Frazee has noted, "la prédominance de l'esprit d'analyse sur l'esprit d'imagination." An important contribution was his early experimental novel Une belle journée; this explored in depth a single day in a character's life, and was the first of a number of such novels, which culminated in Joyce's Ulysses.

While attempting to give Cérard his due as an artist Mr. Frazee, in seeking to discover the relations between this paradoxical personality and his work, has not hesitated to point out Cérard's personal failings. Cérard was an intriguing blend of deceptive simplicity and surprising complexity, and he showed a pessimism and resignation, typical of the fin de siècle, which were evidence of the influence of Schopenhauer.

Because secondary writers often give a better picture of their times than their better-known contemporaries, this biography, too, is able to shed new light on the last thirty years of the nineteenth century while providing an important guide for today's scholars and the future investigators of an important area of French literature.