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Vallès, Jules (1832–1885)

Ali Nematollahy


Whether as novelist, journalist, or politician, Jules Vallès' life and work were always characterized by revolt against authority and authoritarian institutions. One can even say that his revolt went as far as a total rejection of the life of his time: the family, the school system, the asylum, the revolution itself, which can become an authority and demand unconditional sacrifice on the part of the individual. His rebellion was not theoretical and doctrinaire, but visceral, a kind of anarchism of the heart, which prompted him to keep a distance from all the revolutionary movements of the nineteenth century. Vallès' trilogy of novels, L'Enfant, Le Bachelier , and L'Insurgé are probably the best biographical sources of a writer for whom literature and life were inextricably connected and intertwined. Born to a family that was still trying to raise itself from its peasant roots and enter the petty-bourgeoisie, Vallès underwent all the disciplinary weight of both classes as a child. Threatening his father's painstaking social ascent, he was placed in a mental asylum as an adolescent, an experience that he never forgot. He moved to Paris after 1848, but instead of the literary career of his dreams he was forced into journalism and led an impoverished life in the bohemia of the 1850s and 1860s, experiences that he later recounted in his novel Le Bachelier. Vallès' involvement in ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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