Paul Valéry

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Valéry, Paul


Born Oct. 30, 1871, in Sète; died July 20, 1945, in Paris. French poet. Member of the Académie Française (1927).

Valéry graduated from the faculty of law at the University of Montpelier. His work was formed under the influence of late 19th-century symbolism, especially that of S. Mallarmé. After writing his first poems in the 1890’s (some of these were included in the collection An Album of Ancient Poems, 1920), Valéry published essays devoted to painting, architecture, and the dance. Later he wrote essays on Mallarmé, Stendhal, and C. Baudelaire. He also wrote a literary philosophical work, An Evening with Mr. Teste (1896). Its hero, who is striving to control his reason with his will, is encountered in many other works by the poet. Valéry’s fame began with his narrative poem and collection The Young Parque (1917); after this came the narrative poem The Graveyard by the Sea (1920) and the collection of verses and narrative poems Charms (1922). Valéry ’s last, unfinished narrative poem was My Faust (published in 1941).

The intellectuality of Valéry’s poetry is illusory: he was obsessed with the idea of the powerlessness of reason to penetrate the essence of things. The world of images and associations that he created is closed, extremely subjective, and oversaturated with symbols and refined metaphors, even though it has a clear logical structure.


Oeuvres complètes, vols. 1-12. Paris, 1957-59.
Oeuvres. Paris, 1957.
Poésies: Album de vers anciens. [Paris, 1966.]
In Russian translation:
Izbrannoe. Moscow, 1936.
[“Stikhi.”] In Frantsuzskie liriki 19 i 20 vekov. Compiled by B. Livshits. Leningrad, 1937.


Istoriia frantsuzskoi literatury, vol. 4. Moscow, 1963.
Charpier, J. Essai sur P. Valéry. Paris, [1956]. (Contains a bibliography.)
La Rochefoucauld, E. de. Paul Valéry, 3rd ed. Paris, [1957].


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.