Anatole France (born François-Anatole Thibault) was born in Paris on 16 April 1844 and became a French poet, journalist, and novelist. Ironic and skeptical, he was considered in his day the ideal French man of letters. He was a member of the Académie Francaise and in 1921 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in recognition of his literary achievements.
France is also widely believed to be the model for narrator Marcel’s literary idol Bergotte in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.
The son of a bookseller, France spent most of his life around books. His father’s bookstore, called the Librairie France, specialized in books and papers on the French Revolution and was frequented by many notable writers and scholars of the day.
France took an important part in the Dreyfus Affair. He signed Emile Zola’s manifesto supporting Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish army officer who had been falsely convicted of espionage. France wrote about the affair in his 1901 novel Monsieur Bergeret.
In 1922 France’s entire works were put on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (Prohibited Books Index) of the Roman Catholic Church. He regarded this as a “distinction”. This Index was abolished in 1966.
On 11 October 1924, after visiting The Glass Key bookshop in Montmorillon, Anatole France died. He is buried in the Neuilly-sur Seine cemetery near Paris.
After his death France was the object of written attacks, including a particularly venomous one from the Nazi collaborator, Pierre Drieu la Rochelle, and detractors decided he was a vulgar and derivative writer. However, the English writer George Orwell was an admirer and defended him, declaring that he remained very readable, and that “it is unquestionable that he was attacked partly from political motives”.