Octave Mirbeau’s Literary and Intellectual Evolution as a French Writer 1880-1914

Author: McCaffrey, Enda
This study demonstrates how the fusion of literary and political ideas in Mirbeau generated a vision of reality that foreshadowed Modernity. Through Mirbeau’s descriptions of the effects of technological, scientific developments of the day and the temporal and spatial implications of such developments (the automobile, for instance) on the literary process, coupled with his advocacy of a radical political ideology to expose the inadequacies of social democracy, it explores the relationship between literature and politics by highlighting how innovation in the creative process provides a more accommodating and reflective framework for the expression of political difference. Examines Le Calvaire; Sébastian Roch; L’Abbé Jules; Le Jardin des supplices; Le Journal d’une femme de chambre; Dans le ciel; Les 21 jours d’un neurasthénique; La 628-E8; Dingo.


“What gives McCaffrey’s analysis of Mirbeau’s works (particularly the early novels) its particular momentum is the way in which he traces in considerable depth Mirbeau’s political affiliations (from socialism to a brush with ‘conservative values through to anarchism’ in line with the writer’s literary corpus, thus providing a detailed chronological analysis of the life and work of Octave Mirbeau. . . . an accomplished success which, given that a large proportion of Mirbellian criticism is in French, will command . . . considerable international interest.” – Dr. Jean-Pierre Boulé

“Dr. McCaffrey grounds his major study in complete familiarity with Mirbeau’s writings and with existing critical work on him. He therefore writes with commendable authority, and this gives all the more weight to his original thesis that the novels of Mirbeau published this century reflect in their narrative and aesthetic structures and strategies a socio-political and philosophical position, summed up in the word anarchism, quite distinct from that which he had espoused in his nineteenth-century writings. . . Dr. McCaffrey is persuasive by virtue of his clear general argument and his penetrating analyses. . . .a balanced, suggestive and significant academic contribution."- Roger Little

Table of Contents

“. . .an intelligent, in-depth knowledgeable synthesis of Octave Mirbeau’s literary intellectual evolution as a French writer. . . . draws a newly strong portrait that points out beyond Mirbeau’s personality how naturalism first turned to anarchism and decadence, then to a renewed reflection on symbols of modernity.. . . . From the point of view of fictional aesthetics as well as from the one of history of ideology and literary themes in the late nineteenth-century and the early twentieth-century this book is significantly important. . . With his book, well-composed and written in a firm and lively way, Dr. McCaffrey will definitely contribute to improve and refine the knowledge about the writer and his epoch.” – Dr. Henri Mitterand

Table of contents (main headings):
Preface; Introduction
1. The vision of an anarchist
2. From scientific scepticism to the aesthetics of death
3. Nationalism, Catholicism, anti-Semitism
4. Impressionism and contingency
5. Progress under postmodernity
6. The “caninisation” of literature