Paul Claudel

French diplomat, poet and playwright (1868-1955)

Paul Claudel (6 August 186823 February 1955) was a French poet, playwright and diplomat. As a writer he is best remembered for his verse dramas, and as a public servant for his five years as ambassador to the United States.

Paul Claudel


  • Il y a une chose plus triste à perdre que la vie, c’est la raison de vivre,
    Plus triste que de perdre ses biens, c’est de perdre son espérance.
    • There is something sadder to lose than life – the reason for living;
      Sadder than to lose one's possessions is to lose one's hope.
    • L'otage (Paris: Édition de la Nouvelle revue française, 1911) p. 162; Pierre Chavannes (trans.) The Hostage (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1917) p. 130.
  • Il n'y a pour les choses et pour les poèmes qu'une seule manière d'être nouveaux, c'est d'être vrais et qu'une seule manière d'être jeunes, c'est d'être éternels.
    • For things and for poems, there is but one way of being new, and that is to be true; there is only one way of being young, and that is to be eternal.
    • Positions et propositions (Paris: Gallimard, 1928) p. 16; John O'Connor (trans.) Ways and Crossways (London: Sheed & Ward, 1935) p. 49.
  • Si l'ordre est le plaisir de la raison, le désordre est le délice de l'imagination.
    • Order is the pleasure of the reason; but disorder is the delight of the imagination.
    • Le soulier de satin: ou, Le pire n'est pas toujours sûr (Paris: Gallimard, [1929] 1936) vol. 1, p. 12; John O'Connor (trans.) The Satin Slipper (London: Sheed & Ward, 1931) p. xxiii.
  • In the little moment that remains to us between the crisis and the catastrophe, we may as well drink a glass of champagne.
    • Quoted by Claud Cockburn, In Time of Trouble (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1956) p. 264.
    • Remark to a party of American officials invited to the French Embassy, as the Hoover Moratorium was being agreed in 1931.
  • Art imitates nature not in its effects as such, but in its causes, in its ‘manner,’ in its process, which are nothing but a participation in and a derivation of actual objects, of the Art of God himself.
    • as quoted in "The man who got it right," The New York Review of Books, Volume 60, Number 13, August 15, 2013, p. 72
  • J'avais complètement oublié la religion et j'étais à son égard d'une ignorance sauvage. La première lueur de vérité me fut donnée par la rencontre des livres d'un grand poète, à qui je dois une éternelle reconnaissance, et qui a eu dans la formation de ma pensée une part prépondérante, Arthur Rimbaud. La lecture des Illuminations, puis, quelques mois après, d'Une Saison en enfer, fut pour moi un événement capital. Pour la première fois, ces livres ouvraient une fissure dans mon bagne matérialiste et me donnaient l'impression vivante et presque physique du surnaturel.
    • I had completely forgotten about religion and in this respect had a savage ignorance of it. The first glimmer of truth came to me through an encounter with a great poet, who played a predominant part in the formation of my thinking and to whom I owe an eternal debt, Arthur Rimbaud. Reading Illuminations, then a few months later, Use Saison en Enfer was for me a capital event. For the first time, his books opened a crack in my materialist servitude and gave me a vivid and almost physical impression of the supernatural.
    • "My Conversion," December 1886, as translated in Negritude and the Civilization of the Universal, p. 28

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