Jean Anouilh



  • (1910 - 87) French dramatist, whose play Antigone,produced in Paris during the German occupation, brought him internationalfame at the end of World War II. His works offer a disenchantedview of humanity, recurring themes being the loss of innocence, theinevitability of compromise, the difficulty of distinguishing betweenreality and illusion, and the impossibility of real human contact(especially in marriage).

    The son of a tailor, Anouilh worked in advertising before entering the theater in 1931 as secretary to Louis Jouvet, principal director with the Comédie des Champs-élysées. His own work was much influenced by Molière and Jean Giraudoux. His first play, The Ermine, was produced in 1932 by Lugné-Poë, but he attracted little attention until 1937, when Traveller Without Luggage, a sombre piece about an ex-soldier, was staged in Paris.

    Anouilh's output is usually divided into the romantic piècesroses, such as Thieves' carnival (1938); the tragic piècesnoires, such as La Sauvage (The Restless Heart;1938); the witty pièces brillantes, such as La Répétition,ou l'amour puni (The Rehearsal; 1950), the bitter piècesgrinçantes, such as The Waltz of the Toreadors(1952), and the historical pièces costumées,such as L'Alouette (The Lark; 1953), about Joan ofArc, and Becket, or the Honour of God (1959).

    His later works were more whimsical. Kenneth Tynan noted,"He uses fairy-tale or mythical plots of bald simplicity tomake his people disrobe their souls." La Grotte (TheCavern; 1961), a work showing the influence of Pirandello, wasseen at the Strand Theatre, London, in a production starring AlecMcCowan, while Hurluberlu, ou le réactionnaire amoureux(1959) was produced at the 1966 Chichester Festival as The FightingCock. Cher Antoine (1969) was hailed by some as a late masterpiece.His last play, The Navel, was produced in 1981.