Valéry, Paul

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Valéry, Paul

(pōl välārē`), 1871–1945, French poet and critic. A follower of the symbolistssymbolists,
in literature, a school originating in France toward the end of the 19th cent. in reaction to the naturalism and realism of the period. Designed to convey impressions by suggestion rather than by direct statement, symbolism found its first expression in poetry but
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, Valéry was one of the greatest French poets of the 20th cent. He was encouraged by Pierry Loüys and by Mallarmé to publish a few poems in several small reviews, but he soon turned from poetry to prose with La Soirée avec M. Teste (1896; tr. An Evening with Mr. Teste, 1925). In 1912, Gide and other admirers urged him to publish a collection of his early poems. A brief valedictory to poetry, which he had planned to add to the collection, grew into his masterpiece, La Jeune Parque (1917). It is a long and somewhat obscure poem, which, together with Le Cimetière marin (1920; tr. The Graveyard by the Sea, 1932), offers the best example of Valéry's poetics. In 1920 appeared Odes and Album de vers anciens, followed in 1922 by Charmes. His prose works include five collections of essays, all called Variété (1924–44; partial tr. Variety, 1927, 1938), and four dialogues on subjects ranging from the arts to mathematics and the sciences. He succeeded Anatole France in the French Academy in 1925. Between the world wars Valéry was a member of the Committee of Letters and Arts of the League of Nations, serving as its president in the 1930s. Valéry held the chair of poetry at the Collège de France. A recipient of many honors, he was accorded a state funeral at his death. Publication (in English) of a projected 15-volume edition of The Collected Works of Paul Valéry, edited by Jackson Mathews, was begun in 1956.


See studies by H. A. Grubbs (1968), W. N. Ince (2d ed. 1970), and C. M. Crow (1972); bibliography by A. J. Arnold (1970).

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].


References in periodicals archive ?
Valery, Paul, << Essai sur Stendhal >>, in Commerce, XI, printemps 1927--repris sous le titre << Stendhal >>, in Valery, Paul, CEuvres, Bibliotheque de la Pleiade, 1957, T.
It would have been contradicted by Hewitt's own observation that 'some of the most distinguished names in French literature have sometimes expressed anti-Semitic feelings: Barres, Drieu la Rochelle, Valery, Paul Leautaud, Claudel and even Gide' (p.
Graveyard by the Sea, The Poem by Valery, Paul, written in French as "Le Cimetiere marin" and published in 1922 in the collection Charmes; ou poemes.
Valery, Paul, OEuvres Completes I (Paris: Gallimard, 1957).
Other turn-of-the-century poets who wrote prose poetry were Paul Valery, Paul Fort, and Paul Claudel.