Henri Barbusse

Henri Barbusse books and biography


Henri Barbusse

Henri Barbusse
Henri Barbusse

Henri Barbusse (May 17, 1873, Asnières-sur-Seine—August 30, 1935, Moscow) was a French novelist, journalist, and an active communist.

He came to fame with the publication of his novel Le Feu (translated as Under Fire) in 1916, which was based on his experiences during World War I. It shows his growing hatred of militarism, and drew criticism at the time for its harsh naturalism. His book won the Prix Goncourt.

His later works, Manifeste aux Intellectuels, Elevations (1930) and others, show a more definitively revolutionary standpoint. Of these, the 1921 Le Couteau entre les dents (The Knife Between the Teeth) marks Barbusse's siding with Bolshevism and the October Revolution; he joined the French Communist Party in 1923, and later travelled to the Soviet Union.

An associate of Romain Rolland and editor of Clarté, he attempted to define a proletarian literature, akin to both Proletkult and Socialist realism. Barbusse was a convinced Stalinist, and the author of a 1936 biography of Joseph Stalin, titled Staline. Un monde nouveau vu à travers un homme (Stalin. A New World Seen Through the Man). The book was a Western equivalent of the Soviet personality cult, and Barbusse led a violent press campaign against his former friend Panait Istrati - a Romanian writer who had expressed criticism of the Soviet state.

He is buried in Le Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.

In the forward to I saw it Happen, a 1942 collection of eye-witness accounts of the then ongoing war, Lewis Gannet wrote: "(...) We shall be hearing and reading of this war for decades to come. No one of us can yet guess who will be its Tolstoys, its Barbusses, its Remarques and its Hemingways".

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