Anatole France Biography

Anatole France, the pseudonym of Francois-Anatole Thibault, was a highly acclaimed novelist and critic of his time. With a deep love for books instilled in him by his bookseller father, France became known primarily as a poet and novelist, but also explored various other literary genres. His writings, characterized by irony and skepticism, were often criticized by some for being ‘vulgar’. However, his works are considered part of mainstream French Classicism, carrying on the tradition of eighteenth-century French literature. France achieved his first major success with the novel ‘Le Crime de Sylvestre Bonnard’, which earned him a prize from the Academie Francaise. He was actively involved in politics and played a role in the Dreyfus Affair, supporting Alfred Dreyfus, an army officer wrongly accused of espionage. This incident served as the inspiration for his novel ‘Monsieur Bergeret’. Among his other notable works are ‘L’lle des Pingouins’ and ‘Les dieux ont soif’. In recognition of his exceptional literary contributions, France was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1921.

Quick Facts

  • French Celebrities Born In April
  • Also Known As: François-Anatole Thibault
  • Died At Age: 80
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Emma Laprévotte (m. 1920–1924), Valerie Guérin de Sauville (m. 1877–1893)
    • Father: Francois Noel Thibault
    • Mother: Antoinette Galas
    • Children: Suzanne
  • Quotes By Anatole France
  • Nobel Laureates In Literature
  • Died on: October 12, 1924
  • Place of death: Saint-Cyr-sur-Loire, France
  • Notable Alumni: Collège Stanislas De Paris
  • City: Paris
  • More Facts
  • Education: Collège Stanislas De Paris
  • Awards: 1921 – Nobel Prize in Literature

Childhood & Early Life

Anatole France was born in Paris. His father owned a bookstore that specialized in books on the French Revolution. He developed a deep love for books as he spent his early life around them.

He attended a private catholic school, the College Stanislas, in Paris. He also studied at the Ecole des Chartes. His school education is believed to have influenced his decision to pursue a literary career.


He began his career by helping his father in running his bookstore. Later on, he worked as a cataloguer at Bacheline-Deflorenne. During this time, he also began to concentrate on writing.

His first published work was the poem ‘Les Legions de Varus’ which appeared in the Gazette rimee in 1867. Two volumes of his poetry, ‘Poemes dores’ and ‘Les Noces corinthiennes’ were published in 1873 and 1876 respectively.

He secured the position of a librarian for the French Senate in 1876 and served there till 1890. He moved on to fiction with his first novel, ‘Jocaste et Le Chat maigre’ in 1879. It was his 1881 novel ‘Le Crime de Sylvestre Bonnard’ which established his reputation as a serious novelist. The personality of the protagonist, Sylvester Bonnard, a scholar, was modeled on the personality of the author himself.

Over the next few years, he went on to publish novels such as ‘Les Desirs de Jean Servien’ (1882), ‘Abeille’ (1883), and ‘Balthasar’ (1889). He published his first memoir, ‘Le Livre de mon ami’ in 1885.

The 1890s were the most productive years of the prolific novelist. He wrote many books over the decade, the best known of which are: ‘L’Etuide nacre’ (1892), ‘Le Lys rouge’ (1894), ‘L’Orme du mail’ (1897), and ‘L’Anneau d’amethyste’ (1899).

His 1901 novel ‘Monsieur Bergeret’ was based on the Dreyfus Affair in which France had also taken part. In the Dreyfus incident, a Jewish army officer, Alfred Dreyfus, had been falsely accused of a crime he did not commit. He wrote a play, ‘Crainquebille’ in 1903, and the same year he brought out the novel, ‘Histoire comique’. They were followed by his ‘Sur la pierre blanche’ in 1905. The novel ‘L’lle des Pingouins’, which literally means Penguin Island, is a satirized fiction published in 1908. It was one of his best-known books.

In 1912, his novel ‘Les Dieux ont soif’, a fictional tale set during the French Revolution was published. In this book, he describes the horrors of the Reign of Terror in Paris.

In addition to novels and poems, he also wrote several pieces of literary as well as social criticism.

Major Works

His satirical novel, ‘L’lle des Pingouins’ (1908) tells the story of a Christian missionary who accidentally baptizes penguins, thereby creating a problem for the God who only allows humans to be baptized.

One of France’s most intense novels is ‘Les dieux ont soif’ (1912), literally translated as ‘The Gods are Thirsty’. In the story set during the French revolution, the author vividly describes the tale of a young painter during the Reign of Terror in Paris.

‘La Revolte des Anges’ (1914) is regarded as one of his best works. It is about the story of Maurice and his guardian angel Arcade who joins hands with other angels in order to revolt against, and overthrow God.

Awards & Achievements

He received a prize from the Academie Francaise for his novel ‘Le Crime de Sylvestre Bonnard’ (1881). He was awarded The Nobel Prize in Literature in 1921 “in recognition of his brilliant literary achievements, characterized as they are by a nobility of style, a profound human sympathy, grace, and a true Gallic temperament”.

Personal Life & Legacy

He married Valeria Guerin de Sauville in 1877 and had a daughter with her. In spite of being married, he used to have numerous relations with other women which ultimately led to the breakup of his marriage. His popular lovers include Madame Arman de Caillavet and Mme Gagey. He tied the nuptial knot again in 1920 with Emma Laprevotte. He lived a long and productive life and died at the age of 80 in 1924.


The English writer George Orwell was a big admirer of this French writer. He was criticized for his lack of creativity and originality by some critics.

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