Barbusse, Henri

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Barbusse, Henri


Born May 17, 1873, in Asnières; died Aug. 30, 1935, in Moscow. French writer and public figure. Member of the French Communist Party from 1923. Son of a man of letters. Graduated from the faculty of letters of the Sorbonne.

Barbusse’s collection of poems The Mourning Women (1895) and the novel The Inferno (1908) are profoundly pessimistic. During World War I (1914–18), Barbusse went to the front as a volunteer. There he wrote the novel Under Fire, which was published in 1916. In it he gave an accurate picture of everyday military life and showed front-line soldiers beginning to ponder the essence of the war. His heroes conclude that it is necessary to turn their guns against those responsible for the imperialist carnage. The novel Clarté (1919; first Russian translation, entitled Svet [Light], 1920) is about an office worker who, while serving in the army, begins to realize that the imperialist war is a crime. After its publication, V. I. Lenin wrote: “Henri Barbusse’s novels Le feu (Under Fire) and Clarté (Clarity) may be cited as particularly graphic corroborations of the mass phenomenon, observed everywhere, of the growth of revolutionary consciousness among the masses” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 39, p. 106). The Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia had an enormous influence on the life and work of Barbusse. He actively defended the Soviet Republic against foreign intervention. The international group he organized, Clarté (1919), played a large role in rallying the anti-imperialist forces of the artistic intelligentsia. He published the book Light From the Abyss (1919) and the collection of articles Words of a Fighting Man (1920); they contained calls for the overthrow of the capitalist system.

Barbusse visited the USSR on several occasions. In the manifesto With Knife Between Teeth (1921; Russian translation, 1922) he wrote that the birth of Soviet Russia was the “greatest and most beautiful phenomenon in world history. This fact brings humanity to a new phase in its development” (p. 44). In 1925, Barbusse published Chains, showing history as the unbroken chain of sufferings of the masses and their struggle for freedom and justice. In the publicistic and pamphletary book The Butchers (1926) he exposes the White terror in the Balkan countries. In 1927, Barbusse was an active participant in the Congress of Friends of the Soviet Union in Moscow. In 1928 he published the collection of novellas Events (in Russian translation, True Tales, 1929). His book Russia was published in 1930; in it he welcomes the construction of socialism. In the book Zola (1932; Russian translation, 1933)—which is in large measure Barbusse’s aesthetic manifesto—he affirms artistic realism. Barbusse valued M. Gorky particularly highly, calling him “a great luminary” who reveals “new paths to the whole world” (Izbr. proizv., Moscow, 1952, p. 477).

Barbusse led the World Congress Against Imperialist War (Amsterdam, 1932) and headed the World Committee Against War and Fascism, which was founded in 1933. He participated actively in the preparations for and work of the International Youth Congress (Paris, 1933) and the International Congress of Writers in Defense of Culture (Paris, 1935). The main content of the book Stalin (1935) was the history of the Soviet people, who had carried out the Great October Revolution and who were building socialism. However, his book exaggerated the historical role of Stalin.

Up to the end of his life, Barbusse collected material for a large biography of V. I. Lenin; he did not manage to complete it, however. Barbusse wrote the foreword to the French edition of Lenin’s Letters to Relatives (published 1936) together with A. Kurella.


In Russian translation:
Izbr. proizv. Moscow, 1952.
My obviniaem. Moscow, 1949.
“Neizvestnye stranitsy.” Inostrannaia literatura, 1958, no. 6.
Neskol’ko ugolkov serdtsa: Rasskazy. Moscow, 1963.
Ogon’. lasnost’: Pravdivye povesti. Moscow, 1967.


Lenin, V. I. “O zadachakh III Internatsionala.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 39, p. 106.
Lenin, V. I. “Otvet na voprosy amerikanskogo zhurnalista.” Ibid., p. 116.
Gorky, M. Foreword to H. Barbusse’s book V ogne. Soch. v 30 tt., vol. 24. Moscow, 1953. Pages 196–201.
Lunacharskii, A. V. Stat’i o literature. Moscow, 1957.
Isbakh, A. A. “Anri Barbius.” In his book Litsom k ogniu. Moscow, 1958.
Vidal, A. A. Barbius—soldat mira. (Foreword by J. Duclos and afterword by F. S. Narkir’er.) Moscow, 1962. (Abridged translation from French.)
Guro, I., and L. Fomenko.^. Barbius. Moscow, 1962.
Narkir’er, F. S. Frantsuzskaia revoliutsionnaia literatura (1914–1924). Moscow, 1965.
Andreev, L. G. “A. Barbius.” In Istoriia zarubezhnoi literatury, part 1. Moscow, 1969.
Draganov, V. Anri Barbius—drug SSSR. 1873–1935: Ukazatel’ glavneishei literatury. Leningrad, 1940.
A. Barbius: Biobibliograficheskii ukazatel’. Moscow, 1964.
Duclos, J., and J. Fréville. Henri Barbusse. Paris, 1946.
Brett, V. Henri Barbusse: Sa marche vers la clarté, son mouvement Clarté. Prague, 1963.


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