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The Journal of Jules Renard

Spanning from 1887 to a month before his death in 1910, The Journal of Jules Renard is a unique autobiographical masterpiece that, though celebrated abroad and cited as a principle influence by writers as varying as Somerset Maugham and Donald Barthelme, remains largely undiscovered in the United States. Throughout his journal, Renard develops not only his artistic convictions but also his humanity as he reflects on the nineteenth-century French literary and art scene, and on the emergence of his position as an important novelist and playwright in that world. Renard provides aphorisms and quips, and portrays the details of his personal life—his love interests, his position as a socialist mayor of Chitry, the suicide of his father—that often appear in his work.

  • Page Count: 300
  • Direct Price: $13.50
  • List Price: $16.95
  • 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
  • Trade Paper
  • September 2008
  • 978-0-9794198-7-4
Format Price

Jules Renard (1864-1910) was a French author and member of the Académie Goncourt, most famous for the works Poil de Carotte (Carrot hair) (1894) and Histoires naturelles (Natural Histories) (1896). Among his other works are Le Plaisir de rompre (The Pleasure of Breaking) (1898) and Huit jours à la campagne (Eight Days in the Countryside) (1906).

"Jules Renard's endlessly amusing journals are available again, and whether read straight through or dipped into at random, they're a marvel to behold...readers of this work are certainly encouraged to laugh throughout at his singularly savage wit."
—Tayt Harlin, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"You are holding a secret book, which influenced many great writers. I received it first from Donald Barthelme who received it from Susan Sontag. Once you have found it, you will find again and again that many of the writers you love have read it. Renard's way with the detail is unforgettable. I have never forgotten the starfish placed like a badge on a little boy's swimsuit at the beach, his baby arms and legs wiggling like the starfishes. Renard writes about spiders, about the moon, and the poetry he makes from the things his eyes tell him is joyful, particular—the world in a detail."
—Michael Silverblatt, Bookworm, KCRW Radio


"Poetic, amusing, instructive, melancholic—Renard's writing should find its way to the shelves of writers and lovers of fine writing. How ideal to have sentences like this at hand: 'In the path, the caterpillar plays a soundless little tune on its accordion.'"
—Marilyn Dahl, Shelf Awareness

"The Journal of Jules Renard is an artist's notebook of singular quality."
The Oregonian

"The irresistibly quotable Journal of Jules Renard, a record of Renard's development as a writer in fin de siècle France, demonstrates his gift for quips, aphorisms, and striking observations."

"The Journal of Jules Renard is likely to refresh, inspire, and amuse anyone, especially any writer, receptive to the exquisitely voiced discriminations of a tough mind."
—Ron Slate, On the Seawall

"Renard's Journal quickly became a touchstone for modern French literary sensibilities: tart, self-critical, observant, skeptical, and, most of all, capable of a memorable image or phrase...The folks at Tin house Books have done a great service in restoring Renard to readers."
—R.R. Reno, FirstThings.com


"It's not hard to imagine why Renard's journal is a favorite among the literati...in Renard's hands, the immense, impossible beauty of the world and this life it affords us somehow becomes bigger when reduced to these constitutive bits."
—Billy Thompson, Quarterly Conversation


“It astounds us to come upon other egoists, as though we alone had the right to be selfish, and be filled with eagerness to live.”


Jules Renard began his Journal this year, at the age of twenty-three.

The heavy sentence—as though weighted with electric fluids—of Baudelaire.


A bird enveloped in mist, as though bringing with it fragments of cloud torn with its beak.


Talent is a question of quantity. Talent does not write one page: it writes three hundred. No novel exists which an ordinary intel­ligence could not conceive; there is no sentence, no matter how lovely, that a beginner could not construct. What remains is to pick up the pen, to rule the paper, patiently to fill it up. The strong do not hesitate. They settle down, they sweat, they go on to the end. They exhaust the ink, they use up the paper. This is the only dif­ference between men of talent and cowards who will never make a start. In literature, there are only oxen. The biggest ones are the geniuses—the ones who toll eighteen hours a day without tiring. Fame is a constant effort.




Sea foam. The tide seems to burst, like a muffled, distant explosion of which we should be seeing only the smoke.




The true artist will write in, as it were, small leaps, on a hundred subjects that surge unawares into his mind. In this way, nothing is forced. Everything has an unwilled, natural charm. One does not provoke: one waits.


Ascrupulous inexactness.




Haughty, silent faces should not deceive us: these are the timid ones.


Ihave an almost incessant need of speaking evil of others; but no interest at all in doing evil to them.


It is a fascinating task to disentangle, in a young writer, the influ­ences of the established ones. How hard we work before we help ourselves, quite simply, to our own originality!


How odd is the world of dreams! Thoughts, inner speech crowd and swarm—a little world hastening to live before the awakening that is its end, its particular death.


We often wish we could exchange our natural family for a literary one of our choice, in order that we might call the author of a mov­ing page “brother.”


On waking from a tender dream, we strive to go to sleep again in order to continue it, but we try in vain to seize its outlines as they disappear, like the folds of a beloved woman’s dress, behind a cur­tain we cannot brush aside.




To lie watching one’s mind, pen raised, ready to spear the smallest thought that may come out.


It astounds us to come upon other egoists, as though we alone had the right to be selfish, and be filled with eagerness to live.


Fresh, transparent air, in which the light looks washed, as though it had been dipped in clear water and then, like pieces of fine gauze, hung out to dry.


Astyle that’s vertical, glittering, without seams.


Sometimes everything around me seems so diffuse, so tremulous, so little solid, that Iimagine this world to be only the mirage of a world to come: its projection. We seem to be still far from the for­est; and even though the great trees already cast their shadow over us, we still have a long journey to make before we walk under their branches.


It is in the heart of the city that one writes the most inspired pages about the country.




Fingers knotty as a chicken’s neck.


The chatting of the chairs, lined up before the guests arrive on a reception day.


Work thinks; laziness muses.


She has a very mean way of being kind.


In the goodness of things, the sea-shell is related to the stone.