Entering the Pantheon on November 11, 2020, Maurice Genevoix (1890-1980), writer, Goncourt Prize 1925 for Raboliot, perpetual secretary of the French Academy, was one of the major players in the literary life of the XXᵉ century.
Maurice Genevoix contributed to maintain the memory of the combatants of the “Great War” and to transmit this memory to the different generations that followed, notably through Ceux de 14. His work is an invaluable historical testimony, but also that of a writer at the level of man, doubled by a brilliant observer of nature.
The Bibliothèque nationale de France wishes to acquire the collection of Maurice Genevoix’s archives, both literary and personal, preserved, classified and listed by his family, from his first drafts to the corrected proofs, from his war notebooks to the drafts of his speeches, including a very important correspondence, and above all his manuscripts. This considerable collection sheds light on a profoundly humanist writer who, throughout his life, was the standard-bearer for his comrades who had fallen at the front. It sheds light on the life and personality of another Genevoix, who is less well known today, private, touching, close to nature and haunted by the memory of the war.
BnF is calling for donations so that this unique collection, of immense heritage and literary interest, can be added to its collections, and so that the Library can continue to bring to life for as many people as possible the literary works that form our collective memory.
A humanist writer deeply marked by the First World War
Maurice Genevoix (1890-1980) spent his childhood in Châteauneuf-sur-Loire, in a region whose landscapes, nature and soil would mark his sensitivity and his work. A student at the Lycée Lakanal in Sceaux, he entered the École Normale Supérieure on the rue d’Ulm in 1912, but interrupted his studies when the First World War broke out: mobilized on August 2, 1914, he went to the front where he was seriously wounded near the hill of Les Éparges on April 25, 1915. After being discharged, he wrote an account of his war experience: Sous Verdun was published in 1916, the first of five stories later gathered under the title Ceux de 14.
Those of 1914
This was the beginning of a literary career placed under the sign of testimony for what life and human adventure are essential in the eyes of Maurice Genevoix: empathy and solidarity towards those who go through the trials and traumas of war, as well as the scenes of nature, on the banks of the Loire or in Canada, which he travelled in 1939, marked by the quest for harmony between men and animals.
Retired in Sologne from 1927, in the hamlet of Vernelles, he wrote most of his books there: some eighty stories, novels (including Raboliot, Goncourt Prize 1925), short stories, tales, up to the autobiography Thirty Thousand Days published in 1980. Elected to the Académie française in 1946, he was its permanent secretary from 1958 to 1973. His ample, sensitive and generous work, open to men and landscapes, is that of a writer who became the symbol of the fighter and the humanist. On November 11, 2020, the remains of Maurice Genevoix were transferred to the Pantheon by decision of the President of the Republic, as part of the commemoration of the centenary of the First World War.
An exceptionally complete collection
The Maurice Genevoix collection, as preserved by the writer’s family, is a very complete reflection of this biographical and literary journey. It includes all the manuscripts of his works. For each of them, there is the first draft manuscript, which is very elaborate, the clean-up manuscript and the corrected proofs. In addition, there are the two precious notebooks for the preparation of Ceux de 14 and a censored copy of Sous Verdun (Flammarion, 1916), the first volume of Ceux de 14, in which Maurice Genevoix has restored his text by hand.
It should be noted that in addition to the files of literary works, there are also the manuscripts of numerous speeches made by Maurice Genevoix.
Interesting historical and literary material
The very voluminous correspondence, for its part, preserved in several series, is divided into letters received classified in alphabetical order by correspondent or in chronological order, including literary and artistic correspondence as well as war correspondence (family letters, letters from poilus).
The personal papers are also represented in the collection and include, in addition to school papers, drawings by Maurice Genevoix (fauna and flora, caricatures…), some of which illustrate the manuscript files, a set of photographs as well as an important set of period documents relating to the First World War (photographs, biographical documents, research…). This exceptional collection will join the manuscript of Ceux de 14, which the Genevoix family donated to the BnF on the occasion of the writer’s pantheonization in 2020.
The historical and literary interest of the archives contained in the Maurice Genevoix collection stems from the completeness of the collection, the nature of the manuscripts present (corrected working manuscripts), the new avenues of research provided by the correspondence, the visual and plastic quality of certain documents, and the rich documentation on the period of the First World War.
About the BnF Manuscript Department
With more than 370,000 manuscripts in its holdings, BnF has the world’s largest collection of medieval, modern, and contemporary manuscripts. The collections of the Manuscript Department are encyclopedic, drawing on the libraries of the kings of France, enriched by donations from authors, politicians and academics, and completed by acquisitions: chansons de geste, Eastern and Western religions, modern and contemporary history, literary manuscripts, etc.
Today, the department is dedicated to collecting and making available to the public the personal archives of French writers. Through its missions and the richness of its collections, the Department of Manuscripts contributes to the transmission and understanding of a true collective memory.
How to make a donation?
Online: secure payment on bnf.fr / Support BnF
By check: send donations to the order of “Agent comptable BnF” to Bibliothèque nationale de France Délégation du Mécénat- Quai François Mauriac 75706 Paris cedex 13
– by telephone at 01 53 79 46 60
– by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org