Prévost DExiles, Antoine François

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Prévost D’Exiles, Antoine François

 

(known as the Abbé Prévost). Born Apr. 1, 1697, in Hesdin, Artois; died Nov. 25, 1763, in Courtevil, near Chantilly. French writer.

Prévost d’Exiles graduated from a Jesuit college in 1713 and later became an abbot. In his novels Memoirs and Adventures of a Man of Quality Who Retired From the World (vols. 1–7, 1728–32) and Story of a Greek Woman of Our Time (1740), Prévost attacked religious obscurantism and hypocritical class morality and sought a way to organize society rationally. His novel The English Philosopher or the Memoirs of Cleveland (vols. 1–8, 1731–39; Russian translation, 1760–84) glorified reason and attempted to solve the problems of “natural man” in his encounter with civilization.

Prévost’s best work is the novel The Story of the Chevalier des Grieux and Manon Lescaut (1731; Russian translation, 1790), the seventh volume of the Memoirs and Adventures of a Man of Quality. A depiction of the tragedy of love in a society based on social inequality, it realistically portrayed social types of the amoral Regency period. The book, which embodied the tragedy of passion, was a contrast to rococo literature with its mannerisms and artificial feelings. Regarded by the authorities as an outrage to morality, the novel was banned and burned. After 1742, Prévost occupied himself chiefly with translations.

Manon Lescaut was esteemed by V. G. Belinskii, A. I. Herzen, and N. A. Dobroliubov. The novel’s plot was the basis for a ballet by F. Halévy (1830) and operas by D. F. E. Auber (1856), J. Massenet (1884), and G. Puccini (1892). Manon Lescaut has also had many screen adaptations.

WORKS

In Russian translation:
Manon Lesko. Introductory article by V. R. Grib. Moscow-Leningrad, 1936.
Istoriia kavalera De Grie i Manon Lesko. Moscow, 1964.

REFERENCES

Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1946. Pages 719–24.
Manon Lescaut à travers deux siècles. Paris, 1963.
Mathé, R. Manon Lescaut; L’abbé Prévost: Analyse critique. Paris [1972], (Contains bibliography.)

I. N. POZHAROVA