Saturday, April 29, 2017

Born Today April 29: Charles Nodier


French Romantic writer Charles Nodier, birth name Jean Charles Emmanuel Nodier, was born on this day in Besançon, France--which is right on the border of Switzerland.  His father was mayor and later police chief, during the French Revolution.  His father's reputation was not a kind one--he seems to have abused his power with some abandon.  During the Reign of Terror, his father placed him under the care of a tutor, with whom he studied German and English.  Also under tutelage, he studied nature and natural history.  He had been a voracious reader since early childhood, and he would go on to be librarian in his home town.  At one point he came under suspicion by the government and the police demanded to read his personal papers.  All they managed to find were dissertations on nature, including one on the examination of antennae of insects.  The experience must have incensed him, because in addition to producing future works on etymology and philology and even works of pure fiction, he also wrote a satirical skit on Napoleon; for this he was sent to prison for months in 1803.  After his release he left for Paris; and from there he lived life for some years wandering about various French towns.  It is during this time that he produced his first novel.  After this, he settled and went to work as a private secretary, then turning to translating works by his employer: Sir Herbert Croft.  In 1813, he returned to Paris, and in 1824, he appointed librarian at the Bibiliothéque de l'Arsenal (French National Library), a position that he would keep for the rest of his life.  Nodier died in Paris on the 27th of January 1844 at the age of 63.  He is buried there in Pére Lachaise cemetery.  He is being commemorated here, because one of his stories (which had been adapted into a play by Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck) was made into a film in 1923.  La légende de soeur Béatrix  was a joint French and Belgium production.

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