The Journal of Jules Renard
Spanning 1887 to a month before his death in 1910, The Journal of Jules Renard is a unique autobiographical masterpiece that, though celebrated abroad and cited as a principle influence by writers as varying as Somerset Maugham and Donald Barthelme, remains more of a cult object in the United States.
Throughout his journal, Renard develops not only his artistic convictions but also his humanity as he reflects on the nineteenth-century French literary and art scene, and on the emergence of his position as an important novelist and playwright in that world. Through a mix of aphorisms and observations, short scenes, gossip, jokes, and meditations on life and art, Renard portrays the details of his personal life—his love interests, his position as a socialist mayor of Chitry, the suicide of his father—that often appear in his work.
In recent years, the fragmented memoir has grown in popularity, and there’s been a resurgence of diary as an artistic form. Once again, Jean Paul Sartre’s assessment that “directly, or indirectly, Renard is at the origin of contemporary literature” rings true. In a new introduction, Sarah Manguso—whose groundbreaking nonfiction incorporates elements of diary and aphorism—both contextualizes and celebrates Renard’s seminal journal.
Jules Renard’s endlessly amusing journals are available again, and whether read straight through or dipped into at random, they””re a marvel to behold…readers of this work are certainly encouraged to laugh throughout at his singularly savage wit.
—Los Angeles Times Book Review
Directly, or indirectly, Renard is at the origin of contemporary literature.
You are holding a secret book, which influenced many great writers. I received it first from Donald Barthelme who received it from Susan Sontag. Once you have found it, you will find again and again that many of the writers you love have read it. Renard’s way with the detail is unforgettable. I have never forgotten the starfish placed like a badge on a little boy’s swimsuit at the beach, his baby arms and legs wiggling like the starfishes. Renard writes about spiders, about the moon, and the poetry he makes from the things his eyes tell him is joyful, particular-the world in a detail.
—Michael Silverblatt, KCRW Bookworm
The irresistibly quotable Journal of Jules Renard, a record of Renard’s development as a writer in fin de siecle France, demonstrates his gift for quips, aphorisms, and striking observations.
Poetic, amusing, instructive, melancholic—Renard’s writing should find its way to the shelves of writers and lovers of fine writing. How ideal to have sentences like this at hand: ‘In the path, the caterpillar plays a soundless little tune on its accordion.’