Jacques Rivière  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Jacques Rivière (Bordeaux, 15 July 1886 – 14 February 1925 in Paris) was a French "man of letters". He edited La Nouvelle Revue Française (NRF) from 1919 until his death. His close friend was Alain-Fournier (Henri Alban-Fournier) with whom he exchanged an abundant correspondence.


The son of an eminent Bordeaux doctor, Rivière became friends with Henri Alban-Fournier (later known as Alain-Fournier) at the Lycée Lakanal in Sceaux, Hauts-de-Seine. Both students prepared for the entrance examination for the École Normale Supérieure, and both failed. Rivière returned to Bordeaux in 1905, and from that date until his death maintained a quasi-daily correspondence with Alban-Fournier. In this correspondence one can see the literary tastes of both authors taking shape.

Rivière obtained an arts degree in Bordeaux, performed his military service, and returned in 1907 to Paris. Here he prepared a thesis at the Sorbonne on the Theodicy of Fénelon, while earning a living as a teacher at the Stanislas College. He came under the influences of Maurice Barrès, André Gide and Paul Claudel, with whom he corresponded. On 24 August 1908, Rivière married Isabelle Alban-Fournier, his friend Henri's younger sister. In 1913, he explicitly declared his Catholicism.

After writing for the literary revue L'Occident, Rivière became a sub-editor of the NRF in 1912. He also began to write literary criticism, which he collected and published under the title of Études. The essays in this book reveal Rivière's excellent sense of psychology.

Rivière was mobilized in 1914 in the 220th infantry, and was captured on 24 August, in an early battle. Imprisoned in a camp near Königsbrück, Saxony, he attempted several escapes, which caused him to be transferred to a disciplinary camp in Hülsberg, Hanover. His memoirs of his captivity there were published in 1918 under the title L’Allemand : souvenirs et réflexions d'un prisonnier de guerre (The German: memories and reflections of a prisoner of war). Eventually he became seriously ill, and was transferred to Switzerland where he was interned until the end of the war.

Shortly after the end of the war, Rivière restarted the NRF (whose publication had been stopped during the war). Under Rivière's direction, the NRF reappeared on 1 June 1919, and went on to publish the works of such writers as Marcel Proust, François Mauriac, Paul Valéry, Saint-John Perse, Jean Giraudoux and Jules Romains. He is remembered primarily for his 1923-24 exchange of letters with Antonin Artaud, for the remarkable ways Artaud resists Riviere's attempts at critical, literary, even psychological reduction. Around this time Rivière neglected his own career as a writer, and wrote only one short psychological novel, Aimé, published in 1922. He died of typhoid fever on 14 February 1925 in Paris.

After his death, Rivière's wife devoted herself to the posthumous classification and publication of many of his works.


  • Études (1912)
  • L’Allemand : souvenirs et réflexions d'un prisonnier de guerre (1918)
  • Aimée (1922)
  • À la trace de Dieu (1925)
  • Template:Lang (1926–1928)
  • Template:Lang (1926)
  • Carnet de guerre (1929)
  • Rimbaud (1931)
  • Moralisme et Littérature, dialogue avec Ramon Fernández (1932)
  • Florence (1935) (unfinished novel)
  • Carnets 1914-1917 (1977)

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