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André Maurois

MAUROIS, ANDRÉ (originally Emile Herzog; 1885–1967), French biographer, novelist, and essayist. Born in Elbeuf, Maurois was descended from Alsatian industrialists who moved to Normandy after the Franco-Prussian War. Raised in a staunchly patriotic home, he experienced antisemitism as a student at the time of the *Dreyfus Affair and was influenced by the philosopher Alain (Emile Chartier). He spent ten years in his father's factory and his experiences there were later used in his fiction. A French liaison officer and interpreter with a Scots division during World War I, he published a light-hearted book about his British army comrades, Les Silences du Colonel Bramble (1918; Eng. tr., 1919) using his pseudonym, André Maurois, for the first time. He followed it with Les discours du docteur O'Grady (1922). Maurois earned a reputation as an acute interpreter of the English scene and as an outstanding biographer. During the 1920s and 1930s he published Ariel, ou la vie de Shelley (1923; Eng. tr., Ariel, 1924); La vie de Disraeli (1927; Eng. tr., 1927); La vie de Lord Byron (1930; Eng. tr., 1930), and historical works such as Edouard VII et son temps (1933; Eng. tr. 1933) and Histoire de l'Angleterre (1937; Eng. tr., 1937). In writing his biographies, Maurois combined documentation, erudition, and imagination, to unfold the psychological development of his subjects. His books in this genre include studies of Voltaire (1935), Chateaubriand (1938; Eng. tr., 1938), George Sand (1952; Eng. tr., 1953), and Hugo (Olympio, 1954). Two outstanding biographies were A la recherche de Marcel Proust (1949; Proust, a biography, 1950) and Promethée, ou la vie de Balzac (1965). Maurois also wrote short stories and several semiautobiographical novels, notably Bernard Quesnay (1926; Eng. tr., 1927); Climats (1928; Whatever Gods May Be, 1929; and Le cercle de famille (1932; The Family Circle, 1932). In the first of these he told the story of his refugee Alsatian family.

After the armistice of 1940, Maurois supported the Vichy regime, but then violently opposed Hitler and fled to the U.S., where he taught at Princeton until the end of the war. He claimed that the Jews of the Diaspora had to choose segregation, assimilation, or some difficult intermediate path. Himself a convinced assimilationist, he nevertheless remained interested in problems of Jewish identity, to which he referred in the first part of his Mémoires (1942; I Remember, I Remember, 1942). In later years he confessed to "a deep sadness" within himself and praised the intellectual enrichment which the Jews had brought to French literature. Maurois' other works include: Aspects de la biographie (1928; Eng. tr., 1929); Magiciens et logiciens (1935; Prophets and Poets, 1935); Histoire des Etats-Unis (2 vols., 1943–44; Eng. tr., 1948); and Histoire de la France (1947; Eng. tr., 1949); and the autobiographical works Portrait d'un ami qui s'appelle moi (1959) and Mémoires 18851967 (1970). His collected works appeared in 16 volumes (1950–55). He was elected to the French Academy in 1938.


G. Lemaître, André Maurois (Eng., 1939); Chaigne, in: A. Maurois, Poésie et action (1949); J. Suffel, André Maurois (Fr., 1963).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.