Octave Mirbeau: Anarchist Novelist, Playwright, Journalist, and Pamphleteer from France

February 16, 1848 — February 16, 1917

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February 16, 1848 — February 16, 1917


By 1890 his political commitments were clearer: he showed a clear preference for the anarchist left, and became friends with Jean Grave and Camille Pissarro. He wrote at length on Impressionism, believing it to be the beginning of a cultural revolution in France.

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From : Sharif Gemie Bio


"The press is mistaken. There are certain corpses that walk again, and certain voices that won't be stifled. And the void is filled with terrible enigmas."

From : "Ravachol," by by Octave Henri Marie Mirbeau

"I am horrified by the bloodshed, the ruins, and the death; I love life, and all life is sacred to me. This is why I'm going to ask for the anarchist ideal which no form of government can create: love, beauty, and peace between men. Ravachol [the Anarchist bombthrower] doesn't frighten me. He is as transient as the terror he inspires. He is the thunder clap that is followed by the glory of the sun and the calm sky."

From : "Ravachol," by by Octave Henri Marie Mirbeau

"...each turn of the government machinery grinds the tumbling, gasping flesh of the poor..."

From : "Ravachol," by by Octave Henri Marie Mirbeau

"Capitalism is insatiable, and the wage system compounds the evils of ancient slavery. The shops are packed full of clothing, and there are those who go about completely naked; the indifferent rich are puking up food, while others perish from hunger in their doorways. No cry is heeded: whenever a single, louder complaint penetrates the din of sad murmurs, the Lebels is loaded and the troops are mobilized."

From : "Ravachol," by by Octave Henri Marie Mirbeau

"The patience of the downtrodden and the dispossessed has lasted long enough. They want to live, they want to enjoy, they want their share of all the happiness and sunshine."

From : "Ravachol," by by Octave Henri Marie Mirbeau


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About Octave Mirbeau

 Octave Mirbeau 1

Octave Mirbeau 1

Introducing Mirbeau(1848-1917)
By Sharif Gemie.

1998 is the 105th anniversary of Octave Mirbeau's birth. I have been asked by Ronald Creagh to write a few paragraphs explaining his significance.

Mirbeau was an enormously productive writer, journalist and activist in late nineteenth and early twentieth century France. His politics were constantly evolving, and it is difficult to pin him down to a single political commitment. As a teenager in the 1860s he was an anti-clerical Republican; in the 1870s and early 1880s he worked as a journalist for the right-wing, particularly Bonapartist, press. During this period he wrote a number of openly anti-semitic and misogynist pieces. Then, in the mid-1880s, he had a dramatic change of heart, rejected the far right, condemned the Boulangist movement, and moved initially to a loosely defined Republican left. By 1890 his political commitments were clearer: he showed a clear preference for the anarchist left, and became friends with Jean Grave and Camille Pissarro. He wrote at length on Impressionism, believing it to be the beginning of a cultural revolution in France.

Despite his increasing physical frailty in the late 1890s, he toured the country trying to rally support for the Dreyfusard cause. In the 1900s he grew disillusioned. He worked with Jaures *Humanite*, but was skeptical about the future of parliamentary socialism. During the First World War he did not support the war effort, but was reluctant to condemn it while French troops were being killed.

During his life he wrote an extraordinary variety of pieces, including: plays, full length novels, travel-writing, political polemics, short stories, reviews of books, music, art and theater. Many of his shorter works were translated. His two best-known works are *Le Jardin des supplices* [the Torture Garden] and *Le Journal d un femme de chambre* [the Diary of Chambermaid], later to made into a film by Bunuel. One could say that these two works indicate the two sides of his personality: *Le Jardin des Supplices* being a pessimistic, over-lyrical, quasi-erotic novel, probably intended as an extended metaphorical representation of the Dreyfus Affair, while the *Le Journal d une femme de chambre* reveals a warm, humanism, sensitive and understanding of the fate of the powerless in French society.

The best French-language work on him is Jean-François Nivet and Pierre Michel, Octave Mirbeau; l Imprecateur au coeur fidele (Paris, 1990); the best English-language work is Reg Carr, Anarchism in France; the Case of Octave Mirbeau (Manchester, 1977).

From : "Introducing Mirbeau (1848-19917)," by Sharif Gemie, from Anarchy Archives


This person has authored 44 documents, with 209,442 words or 1,234,096 characters.

Translated from the French by Robert Helms "L'Enfant" originally appeared in the Paris periodical La France on October 21, 1885. Motteau gave his testimony as follows: "There you have it, your honor. You've listened to all these people --my good neighbors and my good friends. They haven't cut me any slack, and that's fair enough. They felt uncomfortable as long as I was in Boulaie- (From : Mid-Atlantic Infoshop.)
Translated from the French by Robert Helms "Avant L'Enterrement" first appeared in the Paris newspaper Gil Blas on April 19, 1887 Mr. Poivret got down from his wagon in front of the shop owned by his son-in-law Pierre Gasselin, tied the horse to a thick iron ring and, after three times checking the tightness of the tether's knot, he entered the butcher shop cracking his horse-whip. "Anyone there?" he yelled. A dog, sleeping with its body stretched across a sunny patch of floor, got up with a low groan and then laid itself out a little farther out of the way. The store was deserted, and since it was Thursday, the meat rack was pretty close to empty. A quarter of nearly black beef lay on the block, covered with flies, and ... (From : Mid-Atlantic Infoshop.)
Translated from the French by Robert Helms "La Mort du Chien" originally appeared in the monarchist paper Le Galois under the pen name Henry Lys on August 23, 1884, about a year before the author's conversion to anarchism. Although most of Mirbeau's work remains untranslated, he is now regarded by French critics as one of the most important writers of his period, and his 1903 play Business is Business made a triumphant return to the Paris stage in 1995. He is best known to anglophone posterity for his novels The Torture Garden (1898) and Diary of a Chambermaid (1900). His master called him Turk. He was thin, yellow, and sad, with a pointed snout, a small build, and short, badly cropped ears that were always bleeding. The tail he... (From : Mid-Atlantic Infoshop.)
Translated by Robert Helms "Des ilections" first appeared in La France (Paris), Aug.12, 1885. What's going to happen? Where will we flee? Already the election campaigns are infected by a terrible leprosy. The cabarets roar, rolling over with drunken eyes. Looming above the intersections, the red, blue, and yellow posters explode across the walls of solitary houses. The peasants hurry to gather their wheat and oats before the political whirlwind blows in, like a devastating sirocco. The bad smell of spilled wine is hanging in the air, and the deafening clamor of committees comes from everywhere, left, right, and center, calling for an encore, and marking time on the bass drum of alcoholic frenzy. People walk by, cross the... (From : Mid-Atlantic Infoshop.)
[A wine shop. A door, left, opens onto the street. To the right of the door, a counter is covered with various bottles; behind the counter, more shelves, also covered with bottles, glasses, etc ... On the walls, various theater posters ... Tables, chairs.] [CHAPUZOT, a large, red-faced figure, in shirt sleeves, arms bare, a towel around his neck, stands behind the counter rinsing glasses. A WOMAN, dressed very poorly, her face glazed over with the stunned mask of misery and drink, nurses a small glass of liquor. People pass in the street, behind the door, which reads: ... Wines and Liquors… Top-quality, 20 centimes.] CHAPUZOT: So … you know every morning won’t be like this? WOMAN: I know ... I know. ... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)
Translated from the French by Robert Helms "La Justice de Paix" first appeared in La France on July 24, 1885, and was later anthologized in Lettres de ma Chaumiere, dedicated to Guy de Maupassant. The Justice of the Peace occupied a ground floor hearing room in the village's town hall that looked out onto the square. The stark, tiled room was divided in the middle by a sort of railing made of whi (From : Mid-Atlantic Infoshop.)
Translated and introduced by Robert Helms François-Claudius Koeningstein (Oct. 14, 1859 -- July 11, 1892), known to posterity as Ravachol, was born to Dutch and French parents at Saint-Chamond, near St. Etienne in Eastern France. He was angered by two actions taken by the French government on May 1, 1891. One was at Fourmies, where the newly designed Lebels machine gun was used against a peaceful May Day rally at which women and children were carrying flowers and palms. Casualties there numbered 14 dead and 40 wounded. The other incident was at Clichy, where police attacked a six-man anarchist labor rally. The workers defended themselves with pistol-shots and were subsequently given long terms at hard labor. Ravachol to... (From : Mid-Atlantic Infoshop.)
Translated from the French by Robert Helms "L'Oiseau Sacri" first appeared in the literary supplement of the Paris anarchist paper La Rivolte #3 (Sept. 27, 1890), reprinted from L'Echo de Paris. A few leagues from my cottage, in one of the most fertile areas in France, there lies a certain immense property. For only the past ten years the place has belonged to a well-known banker, but it isn't used for hunting parties. The chateau was partly demolished during the first revolution. Nothing remains of it but an uncrowned brick tower and some charred walls that invade the weeds, which grow into trees, and the moss. The banker considered rebuilding it according to its original design, but then abandoned the idea because of the expe... (From : Mid-Atlantic Infoshop.)
There’s something that astounds me enormously. In fact, I’d even say that it stupefies me, and that’s that at this scientific moment when I’m writing, after countless experiences, after daily scandals, there can still exist in our dear France (as they say at the Budget Commission) one voter, one single voter – that irrational, inorganic, hallucinatory animal – who consents to put a halt to his affairs, his dreams, and his pleasures in order to vote in favor of someone or something. If we think about it for just one instant, is this surprising phenomenon not one fit to confuse the most subtle philosophers and confound reason? Where is the Balzac who can give us the physiology of the modern voter, or the Ch... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)
Translated from the French by Robert Helms "Le Mur" first appeared in L'Echo de Paris on February 20, 1894 Old man Rivoli had a wall. This wall ran along a road, and it was crumbling badly. The rains and the road mender's pickax had undermined the base. The stones, having come loose, hardly held together any longer, and cracks were opening up. It was beautiful, however, having the look of an ancient ruin. Some irises crowned the top, while figworts, maidenhair, and houseleeks pushed their way through the fissures. Some poppies, too, paraded their frail bodies between cracks in the rubble-stones. But Pop Rivoli was not sensitive to the poetry of his wall, and, after examining it at length, and jiggling some of its loose stones lik... (From : Mid-Atlantic Infoshop.)


An icon of a baby.
February 16, 1848
Birth Day.

An icon of a gravestone.
February 16, 1917
Death Day.

An icon of a news paper.
November 15, 2016; 5:26:39 PM (America/Los_Angeles)
Added to https://www.RevoltLib.com.

An icon of a red pin for a bulletin board.
March 14, 2020; 2:12:13 PM (America/Los_Angeles)
Updated on https://www.RevoltLib.com.


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