Paul Valéry

France, 1871 - 1945

Paul Valéry was a poet and essayist. He studied law in Montpellier, but was mostly influenced by his friendship with Pierre Louys and André Gide and by the Tuesday night gatherings at the Paris house of his mentor, Stéphane Mallarmé. He published a number of poems in minor journals, but gave up the idea of a literary career in 1895, afraid it would harm his capacity for logical thought. He spent years exclusively writing essays. In 1912, he resumed the writing of poetry on the advice of Gide. Among his major poetic works are La jeune parque (1917), Album des vers anciens (1920) and Charmes (1922). Many of his essays, which often deal with the workings of the human mind and which cover literature, philosophy, politics, poetics and aesthetics, were published in the five-volume collection Variété (1924-1944). In 1925, Valéry was admitted into the Académie française.