Alain René Lesage

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Lesage, Alain René


Born Dec. 13, 1668, in Sarzeau, present-day department of Morbihan; died Nov. 17, 1747, in Boulogne-sur-Mer, present-day department of Pas-de-Calais. French writer. Son of a notary.

Lesage’s plays in the collection Spanish Theater (1700) were free translations of Spanish comedies; they were slighted by the theoreticians of classicism in France for their alleged bad taste. Yet Lesage’s study of Spanish literature had a beneficial influence upon his work. His first original one-act comedy, Crispin, the Rival of His Master, was presented at the Comédie Française in 1707; following the traditions of P. Scarron and Moliére, Lesage created a clever rascally servant trying to make his way into the bourgeoisie.

In his satirical comedy Turcaret (1709), Lesage presented an all-powerful profiteering financier and exposed the moral degradation of the aristocracy. The controversy engendered by Turcaret (offended bankers tried to have the comedy banned) forced Lesage to move from the Comédie Française to the Theatre de la Foire, for which he wrote plays between 1712 and 1735. He used the commedia dell’arte masks from folk plays and a fairytale form to spread the ideas of the Enlightenment. Lesage adapted tales from The Thousand and One Nights and, with L. Fuzélier and Dorneval, wrote librettos for comic operas (published in The Marketplace Theater, or Comic Opera, vols. 1–10, 1721–37).

The title and plot of the novel The Devil Upon Two Sticks (1707; Russian translation, 1969) are borrowed from the Spanish writer L. Velez de Guevara; it continued the tradition of expose found in the French 17th-century genre novel (exemplified by C. Sorel, Scarron, and A. Furetiére). The novel The Story of Gil Blas of Santillane (1715–35; Russian translation, 1935), whose structure harks back to the Spanish picaresque novel, presents a broad picture of French society and its mores. In Gil Blas, Lesage became the precedessor of D. Diderot and the literature of the Enlightenment.

Lesage’s influence on the development of the Russian novel of everyday life and the satirical novel of the 18th and 19th centuries is evident in The Russian Gil Blas, or The Adventures of Prince G. S. Chistiakov (1814) by V. T. Narezhnyi and Ivan Vyzhigin (1829) by F. V. Bulgarin.


Oeuvres, vols. 1–5. Paris, 1878–79.
In Russian translation:
Izbr. soch., vol. 1. Petrograd, 1920.


Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed. vol. 7. Page 285.
Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1946.
Etkind, E. “A. R. Lesazh.” In Pisateli Frantsii. Moscow, 1964.
Istoriia zapadnoevropeiskogo teatra, vol. 2. Moscow, 1957.
Laufer, R. Lesage ou le métier de romancier. [Paris, 1971.]
Cordier, H. Essai bibliographique sur les oeuvres d’A. R. Lesage. Paris, 1910.


References in periodicals archive ?
Ruy Blas, first performed in 1838, is a tragic drama by Victor Hugo, while Gil Blas of Santillana is an early 18th Century novel by Alain-Rene Lesage.
In the later period, Alain-Rene Lesage is regarded as the picaresque author par excellence in France, and, in the eyes of many English-speaking critics, also in Europe.
Spanish writer and musician remembered chiefly for his picaresque novel La vida del Escudero Marcos de Obregon (1618; "Life of Squire Marcos of Obregon"), upon which the French novelist Alain-Rene Lesage based parts of his popular Histoire de Gil Blas de Santillane (1715-35; The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane).
All references are to Alain-Rene Lesage, Aventures du [sic] Chevalier du Beauchene (Lagrasse: Editions Verdier, 1980).
Robert Chevalier, dit de Beauchene, capitaine des flibustiers dans la nouvelle France (1732)--a relatively little known novel by Alain-Rene Lesage, who, of course, played a pivotal role in popularizing the tradition of the Spanish picaresque in France and England through both his translations and also his own novels.
His fantastic satirical novel, El diablo cojuelo (1641; "The Crippled Devil"), became well known from its adaptation by the French dramatist Alain-Rene Lesage as Le Diable boiteux (1707; The Devil upon Two Sticks ).