Monday, November 10, 2008
Jean Richepin (4 February 1849 - 12 December 1926)
French poet, novelist and dramatist, the son of an army doctor, was born at Medea (Algeria).
At school and at the École Normale Supérieure he gave evidence of brilliant, if somewhat undisciplined, powers, for which he found physical vent in different directions--first as a franc-tireur in the Franco-German War, and afterwards as actor, sailor and stevedore--and an intellectual outlet in the writing of poems, plays and novels which vividly reflected his erratic but unmistakable talent. A play, L'Étoile, written by him in collaboration with André Gill (1840-1885), was produced in 1873; but Richepin was virtually unknown until the publication, in 1876, of a volume of verse entitled Chanson des gueux, when his outspokenness resulted in his being imprisoned and fined for outrage aux mœurs.
The same quality characterized his succeeding volumes of verse: Les Caresses (1877), Les Blasphèmes (1884), La Mer (1886), Mes paradis (1894), La Bombarde (1899). His novels have developed in style from the morbidity and brutality of Les morts bizarres (1876), La Glu (1881) and Le Pavé (1883) to the more thoughtful psychology of Madame André (1878), Sophie Monnier (1884), Cisarine (1888), L'Aîné (1893), Grandes amoureuses (1896) and La Gibasse (1899), and the more simple portrayal of life in Miarka (1883), Les Braves Gens (1886), Truandailles (1890), La Miseloque (1892) and Flamboche (1895).
His plays, though occasionally marred by his characteristic proneness to violence of thought and language, constitute in many respects his best work. The most notable are:
• Nana Sahib (1883)
• Monsieur Scapin (1886)
• Le Flibustier (1888; the basis for an opera of the same name by César Cui)
• Par le glaive (1892)
• Vers la joie (1894)
• Le Chemineau (1897)
• Le Chien de garde (1898)
• Les Truands (1899)
• Don Quichotte (1905)
Most of these were produced at the Comédie française. He also wrote Miarka (1905), adapted from his novel, for the music of Alexandre Georges, and Le mage (1891) for the music of Jules Massenet. A friend of Emmanuel Chabrier, he helped the composer to correct and salvage the libretto of Le roi malgré lui, as well as providing the words for La Sulamite.
His son, Jacques was also a dramatist.