Léon Bloy

Léon Bloy (1846–1917) was a French novelist, essayist, pamphleteer, and poet.

Léon Bloy
Bloy in 1887
Bloy in 1887
Born11 July 1846
Notre-Dame-de-Sanilhac, France
Died3 November 1917
Bourg-la-Reine, France
  • Novelist
  • essayist
  • poet


Bloy was born on 11 July 1846 in Notre-Dame-de-Sanilhac, in the arondissement of Périgueux, Dordogne. He was the second of six sons of the Voltairean freethinker and stern disciplinarian Jean-Baptiste Bloy and his wife Anne-Marie Carreau, pious Spanish-Catholic daughter of a Napoleonic soldier.[1] After an agnostic and unhappy youth[2] in which he cultivated an intense hatred for the Roman Catholic Church and its teaching,[1] his father found him a job in Paris, where he went in 1864. In December 1868, he met the ageing Catholic author Barbey d'Aurevilly, who lived opposite him in rue Rousselet and who became his mentor. Shortly afterwards, he underwent a dramatic religious conversion.

Bloy was a friend of the author Joris-Karl Huysmans, the painter Georges Rouault, and the philosophers Jacques and Raïssa Maritain[3] and was instrumental in reconciling these intellectuals with Roman Catholicism. However, he acquired a reputation for bigotry because of his frequent outbursts of temper. For example, in 1885, after the death of Victor Hugo, whom Bloy believed to be an atheist, Bloy decried Hugo's "senility", "avarice", and "hypocrisy".[4] Bloy's first novel, Le Désespéré, a fierce attack on rationalism and those he believed to be in league with it, made him fall out with the literary community of his time and even many of his old friends. Soon, Bloy could count such prestigious authors as Émile Zola, Guy de Maupassant, Ernest Renan, Alphonse Daudet, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Paul Bourget, and Anatole France as his enemies.[3]

In addition to his published works, he left a large body of correspondence with public and literary figures. He died on 3 November 1917 in Bourg-la-Reine.


Bloy was noted for personal attacks, but he saw them as the mercy or indignation of God. According to Jacques Maritain, he used to say: "My anger is the effervescence of my pity."[5]

Among the many targets of Bloy's attacks were people of business. In an essay in Pilgrim of the Absolute, he compared the businessmen of Chicago unfavourably to the cultured people of Paris:

"In Paris you have the Saint Chapelle and the Louvre, true enough, but we in Chicago kill eighty thousand hogs a day!..." The man who says that is in truth a business man.

— Léon Bloy, "Les Affaires Sont Les Affaires" ("Business Is Business") in "The Wisdom of the Bourgeois", part of Pilgrim of the Absolute.[6]

Our Lady of La Salette

Inspired by both the millennialist visionary Eugène Vintras and the reports of an apparition at La Salette—Our Lady of La Salette—Bloy was convinced that the Virgin's message was that if people did not reform, the end time was imminent.[7] He was particularly critical of the attention paid to the shrine at Lourdes and resented the fact that it distracted people from what he saw as the less sentimental message of La Salette.[8]


Bloy is quoted in the epigraph at the beginning of Graham Greene's novel The End of the Affair and in the essay "The Mirror of Enigmas" by the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, who acknowledged his debt to him by naming him in the foreword to his short story collection "Artifices" as one of seven authors who were in "the heterogeneous list of the writers I am continually re-reading". In his novel The Harp and the Shadow, Alejo Carpentier excoriates Bloy as a raving, Columbus-defending lunatic during Vatican deliberations over the explorer's canonization. Bloy is also quoted at the beginning of John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany, and there are several quotations from his Letters to my Fiancée in Charles Williams's anthology The New Christian Year.[9] Le Désespéré was republished in 2005 by Éditions Underbahn with a preface by Maurice G. Dantec. In Chile historian Jaime Eyzaguirre came to be influenced by Bloy's writings.[10]

According to the historian John Connelly, Bloy's Le Salut par les Juifs, with its apocalyptically radical interpretation of chapters 9 to 11 of Paul's Letter to the Romans, had a major influence on the Catholic theologians of the Second Vatican Council responsible for section 4 of the council's declaration Nostra aetate, the doctrinal basis for a revolutionary change in the Catholic Church's attitude to Judaism.[11]

In 2013, Pope Francis surprised many by quoting Bloy during his first homily as pope.[3]

Bloy and his effect on 21st-century French scholars make a significant appearance in Michel Houellebecq's 2015 novel Submission.



  • Le Désespéré (1887) ("Despairing")
  • La Femme pauvre (1897) ("The woman who was poor")


  • "Propos d'un entrepreneur de démolitions" (1884) ("The Munition Merchant's Plan")
  • "Le Salut par les Juifs" (1892) ("Salvation through the Jews")
  • "Je m'accuse" (1900) ("I accuse myself"), in response to Émile Zola's 1898 open letter J'Accuse…!
  • "Exégèse des lieux communs" (1902–12) ("Exegesis of the Commonplaces")
  • "Belluaires et porchers" (1905) ("Gladiators and swineherds")
  • "Celle qui pleure" (1908) ("She Who Weeps")
  • "Le Sang du Pauvre" (1909) ("Blood of the Poor")
  • "L'Ame de Napoléon" (1912) ("Napoleon's Soul")
  • "Sur la Tombe de Huysmans" (1913) "On Huysmans' Tomb")[12]
  • "Jeanne d'Arc et l'Allemagne" (1915) ("Joan of Arc and Germany")

Short stories


  • Le Mendiant ingrat (1898) ("The Ungrateful Beggar")
  • Mon Journal (1904) ("My diary")
  • Quatre ans de captivité à Cochons-sur-Marne (1905) ("Four years of captivity in Cochons-sur-Marne")
  • L'Invendable (1909) ("The Unsaleable")
  • Le Vieux de la montagne (1911) ("The Old Man from the Mountain")
  • Le Pèlerin de l'Absolu (1914) ("The Pilgrim of the Absolute")
  • Au seuil de l'Apocalypse (1916) ("On the Threshold of the Apocalypse")
  • La Porte des humbles (posth., 1920) ("The Door of the Lowly")

A study in English is Léon Bloy by Rayner Heppenstall (Cambridge: Bowes & Bowes, 1953).


  • "Love does not make you weak, because it is the source of all strength, but it makes you see the nothingness of the illusory strength on which you depended before you knew it."[13]



  1. ^ a b Alter-Gilbert, Gilbert (9 December 2008). "Léon Bloy: Pilgrim of the Absolute".
  2. ^ Sheed, F.J. (1940). Sidelights on the Catholic Revival. New York: Sheed and Ward. p. 181.
  3. ^ a b c Bermudez, Alejandro (15 March 2013). "A Pope Who Quotes Bloy". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  4. ^ Robb, Graham (1997). Victor Hugo. London: Picador. p. 533. ISBN 9780393318999.
  5. ^ Bloy 1947, pp. 11, 13.
  6. ^ Bloy 1947, p. 132.
  7. ^ Ziegler, Robert (October 2013). "The Palimpsest of Suffering: Léon Bloy's Le Désespéré". Neophilologus. 97 (4): 653–662. doi:10.1007/s11061-012-9337-x.
  8. ^ Kaufmann, Suzanne K. (2005). Consuming Visions: Mass Culture and the Lourdes Shrine. Cornell University Press. p. 86. ISBN 9780801442483.
  9. ^ "Quotations from Léon Bloy in "Charles Williams: The New Christian Year"". 1 November 2007. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  10. ^ "Jaime Eyzaguirre (1908–1968)". Memoria Chilena (in Spanish). Biblioteca Nacional de Chile. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  11. ^ Connelly, John (2012). From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews, 1933–1965. Harvard University Press.
  12. ^ "Sur la Tombe de Huysmans" is available via Bibliothèque nationale de France.
  13. ^ Auden, W.H.; Kronenberger, Louis (1966). The Viking Book of Aphorisms. New York: Viking Press.


External links

1846 in France

Events from the year 1846 in France.

1894 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1894.

1917 in France

This is a list of events from 1917 in France.

Adolphe van Bever

Adolphe van Bever (25 December 1871, 12th arrondissement of Paris – 7 January 1927, Paris) was a 19th–20th-century French bibliographer and erudite.

Alexis Galpérine

Alexis Galpérine (born 1955) is a French classical violinist.


Bloy may refer to:

Francis Bloy (1904–1993), the Episcopal Bishop of Los Angeles between 1948 and 1974

Harry Bloy (born 1946), former BC Liberal Member of the Legislative Assembly in the province of British Columbia, Canada

Léon Bloy (1846–1917), French novelist, essayist, pamphleteer and poet

Catholic moral theology

Catholic moral theology is a major category of doctrine in the Catholic Church, equivalent to a religious ethics. Moral theology encompasses Roman Catholic social teaching, Catholic medical ethics, sexual ethics, and various doctrines on individual moral virtue and moral theory. It can be distinguished as dealing with "how one is to act", in contrast to dogmatic theology which proposes "what one is to believe".

Combats littéraires

Combats littéraires is the title of a 2006 collection of 187 articles and prefaces written by the French writer Octave Mirbeau, between 1876 and 1916, on literature, journalism, and publishing over the course of his long career as an influential journalist. Although Mirbeau collaborated with numerous daily newspapers, he was never officially assigned the work of literary reviewer. Of these articles, some 60 were published between 1925 and 1926 under the title Les Écrivains, and these are available on Wikisource.

Disagreeable Tales

Disagreeable Tales (French: Histoires désobligeantes) is an 1894 short story collection by the French writer Léon Bloy. It consists of 30 tales set in Paris, focused on criminality, perversions, and other subject matters typical of the decadent movement. The common theme is the faith in God in a time of human spiritual crisis. An English translation by Erik Butler was published in 2015 by Wakefield Press.

Iwan Gilkin

Iwan Gilkin (7 January 1858 – 28 September 1924) was a Belgian poet. Born in Brussels, Gilkin was associated with the Symbolist school in Belgium.

His works include Les ténèbres (1892, featuring a frontispiece by Odilon Redon) and Le Sphinx (1907). Linked with the development of the literary revue the Parnasse de la Jeune Belgique, he was an early appreciator of the Comte de Lautréamont's infamous work, Les Chants de Maldoror, and sent several copies of the book to his friends, including fellow poet Léon Bloy.His mature works, which often concerned difficult religious and philosophical themes, reflect a highly pessimistic, spiritual and anti-positivistic outlook, influenced by Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Schopenhauer. A French-language study of Gilkin by Henri Liebrecht was published in 1941.

Jaime Eyzaguirre

Jaime Eyzaguirre (21 December 1908 – 17 September 1968) was a Chilean lawyer, essayist and historian. He is variously recognized as a writer of traditionalist or conservative historiography in his country.

Joris-Karl Huysmans

Charles-Marie-Georges Huysmans (French: [ʃaʁl maʁi ʒɔʁʒ ɥismɑ̃s]; 5 February 1848 in Paris – 12 May 1907 in Paris) was a French novelist and art critic who published his works as Joris-Karl Huysmans ([ʒoʁis kaʁl], variably abbreviated as J. K. or J.-K.). He is most famous for the novel À rebours (1884, published in English as Against the Grain or Against Nature). He supported himself by a 30-year career in the French civil service.

Huysmans' work is considered remarkable for its idiosyncratic use of the French language, large vocabulary, descriptions, satirical wit and far-ranging erudition. First considered part of Naturalism, he became associated with the decadent movement with his publication of À rebours. His work expressed his deep pessimism, which had led him to the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. In later years, his novels reflected his study of Catholicism, religious conversion, and becoming an oblate. He discussed the iconography of Christian architecture at length in La cathédrale (1898), set at Chartres and with its cathedral as the focus of the book.

Là-bas (1891), En route (1895) and La cathédrale (1898) are a trilogy that feature Durtal, an autobiographical character whose spiritual progress is tracked and who converts to Catholicism. In the novel that follows, L'Oblat (1903), Durtal becomes an oblate in a monastery, as Huysmans himself was in the Benedictine Abbey at Ligugé, near Poitiers, in 1901. La cathédrale was his most commercially successful work. Its profits enabled Huysmans to retire from his civil service job and live on his royalties.

List of French novelists

This is a list of novelists from France. Novelists in this list should be notable in some way, and ideally have Wikipedia articles on them.

See also French novelists Category Index.

Honoré d'Urfé (1568–1625)

Charles Sorel (c. 1602–1674)

Madeleine de Scudéry (1607–1701)

Madame de Lafayette (1634–1693), author of La Princesse de Clèves

Alain-René Le Sage (1668–1747)

Pierre de Marivaux (1688–1763)

Voltaire (1694–1778), philosophe, satirist, playwright, author of Candide

Françoise de Graffigny (1695–1758), author of Lettres d'une Péruvienne

Abbé Prévost (1697–1763), author of Manon Lescaut

Claude Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon (1707–1777)

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), philosophe, author of Julie, or the New Heloise

Denis Diderot (1713–1784), philosophe, author of Rameau's Nephew

Marie Jeanne Riccoboni (1714–1792)

Restif de la Bretonne (1734–1806)

Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (1737–1814), author of Paul et Virginie

Marquis de Sade (1740–1814), author of "Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man", Justine, The 120 Days of Sodom, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and Juliette

Choderlos de Laclos (1741–1803), author of Les liaisons dangereuses

Anne Louise Germaine de Staël (1766–1817)

Benjamin Constant (1767–1830), author of Adolphe

François-René de Chateaubriand (1768–1848), author of Atala and René

Étienne Pivert de Senancour (1770–1846)

Charles Nodier (1780–1844)

Stendhal (1783–1842), author of The Red and the Black, considered by some to be the first modern novel, and The Charterhouse of Parma

Charles Paul de Kock (1793–1871)

Antoinette Henriette Clémence Robert (1797–1872)

Charles Dezobry (1798–1871), historian and historical novelist

Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850), author of La Comédie Humaine, a series of novels presenting a full picture of France in the early 19th century

Alexandre Dumas, père (1802–1870), author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers

Victor Hugo (1802–1885), author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Misérables

Prosper Mérimée (1803–1870), author of Carmen

Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804–1869)

George Sand (1804–1876), pseudonym of Amantine Aurore Lucile Dupin, Baroness Dudevant

Eugène Sue (1804–1857)

Jules Amédée Barbey d'Aurevilly (1808–1889)

Alfred de Musset (1810–1857)

Théophile Gautier (1811–1872)

Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880), author of Madame Bovary and Sentimental Education

Edmond de Goncourt (1822–1896)

Henri Murger (1822–1861), author of Scènes de la vie de bohème

Alexandre Dumas, fils (1824–1895), author of La Dame aux camélias

Edmond About (1828–1885)

Jules Verne (1828–1905), writer of techno-thrillers like Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, and founding father of science fiction

Jules de Goncourt (1830–1870)

Hector Malot (1830–1907)

Émile Gaboriau (1832–1873), pioneer of modern detective fiction

Eugène Le Roy (1836–1907)

Alphonse Daudet (1840–1897)

Émile Zola (1840–1902), naturalist, author of Germinal and Nana

Anatole France (1844–1924)

Léon Bloy (1846–1917)

Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848–1907), author of À rebours and Là-bas

Guy de Maupassant (1850–1893)

Pierre Loti (1850–1923)

Élémir Bourges (1852–1925)

Paul Bourget (1852–1935)

René Bazin (1853–1932)

Adolphe Chenevière (1855–19??)

Maurice Barrès (1862–1923)

Henri de Régnier (1864–1936)

Jules Renard (1864–1910)

Romain Rolland (1866–1944), Nobel Prize in Literature, 1915

Gaston Leroux (1868–1927), author of The Phantom of the Opera and The Mystery of the Yellow Room which is recognized as the first locked room puzzle mystery novel

André Gide (1869–1951)

Henri Bordeaux (1870–1963)

Marcel Proust (1871–1922), author of In Search of Lost Time, sometimes seen as the greatest modernist novel

Colette (1873–1954), best known for Gigi and Chéri

Alfred Jarry (1873–1907), satirist, inventor of Pataphysics

Roger Martin du Gard (1881–1958), Nobel Prize in Literature, 1937

Louis Pergaud (1882–1915)

Georges Duhamel (1884–1966)

François Mauriac (1885–1970), Nobel Prize in Literature, 1952

Jules Romains (1885–1972)

Alain-Fournier (1886–1914)

Georges Bernanos (1888–1948)

Adrien Bertrand (1888–1917)

Henri Bosco (1888–1976)

Louis Ferdinand Céline (1894–1961), author of Journey to the End of the Night and Death on the Installment Plan or Mort à Crédit

Henri de Montherlant (1895–1972)

Jean Giono (1895–1970)

Julien Green (1900–1998)

Antoine de Saint Exupéry (1900–1944)

Nathalie Sarraute (1900–1999)

André Malraux (1901–1976)

Irène Némirovsky (1903–1942), author of Suite française

Raymond Queneau (1903–1976)

Raymond Radiguet (1903–1942)

Marguerite Yourcenar (1903–1987)

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980), Nobel Prize in Literature, 1964

Louise Aslanian (1906–1945), pseudonym "Las", author of "The Way of doubt".

Pauline Réage (1907–1998)

Simone de Beauvoir (1908–1986)

Paul Berna (1908–1994)

Jean Genet (1910–1986)

Henri Troyat (1911–2007)

Pierre Boulle (1912–1994), author of The Bridge on the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes

Albert Camus (1913–1960), Nobel Prize in Literature, 1957

Gilbert Cesbron (1913–1979)

Claude Simon (1913–2005), Nobel Prize in Literature, 1985

Romain Gary (1914–1980), winner of the Goncourt prize twice, 1956, and 1975 under the pseudonym of Emile Ajar

Marguerite Duras (1914–1996)

Maurice Druon (1918–2009)

Boris Vian (1920–1959)

Alain Robbe-Grillet (1922–2008)

Michel Tournier (born 1924)

Philippe Daudy (1925–1994)

Michel Butor (born 1926)

Sébastien Japrisot (1931–2003)

Emmanuelle Arsan (born 1932)

Régine Deforges (born 1935)

Françoise Sagan (1935–2004)

Georges Perec (1936–1982)

Annie Ernaux (born 1960)

J.M.G. Le Clézio (born 1940), Nobel Prize in Literature, 2008

Nancy Huston (born 1953)

Michel Houellebecq (born 1958), Impact award winner

Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt (born 1960)

Charles Dantzig (born 1961)

Pavel Hak (born 1962)

Beatrice Hammer (born 1963)

Paul-Napoléon Roinard

Paul-Napoléon Roinard (4 February 1856 – 26 October 1930) was a French anarchist poet.

Rayner Heppenstall

John Rayner Heppenstall (27 July 1911 in Lockwood, Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England – 23 May 1981 in Deal, Kent, England) was a British novelist, poet, diarist, and a BBC radio producer.

The Woman Who Was Poor

The Woman Who Was Poor (French: La Femme pauvre) is an 1897 novel by the French writer Léon Bloy. It follows a woman, Clotilde, who becomes involved with the Paris art and literary scene in the 1880s. It was Bloy's second novel. An English translation by I. J. Collins was published in 1939.

Wouter Lutkie

Wouterus Leonardus Lutkie (February 23, 1887 in 's-Hertogenbosch – January 23, 1968 in Nuland) was a Dutch Catholic priest and fascist.

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Mysticism and reforms
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