Jean Giraudoux (1882-1944) is well known for his diplomatic career, his literary work and his reflexions on war and peace.
Giraudoux’s work comprises novels, essays, reviews and especially plays, the most famous ones being The Trojan War will not take place, Electre and Ondine. He has lived in this house during the last years of his life.
As a former student of the Ecole Normale Supérieure, he chose to become a diplomat. Mobilised in 1914, he was wounded twice. He was deeply marked by the war, as was his whole generation. The rise of perils in Europe, particularly with Hitler coming to power in 1933, inspired him to write The Trojan War will not take place, one of his major plays. It was performed for the first time in November 1935 by Louis Jouvet at the Théâtre de l’Athénée.
The play begins with a sentence by Andromaque: “The Trojan War will not take place”, to which Cassandra replies: “The Trojan War will take place”. Giraudoux located his story in Troy shortly after the kidnapping of Helen of Sparta by Trojan Prince Pâris. This way, he was able to express his concerns regarding a coming war in Europe that everyone could see coming but that no one could do anything against. Throughout the play, pro-wars oppose Trojan pacifists. The latter try to prevent conflict by all means. War is described as a denial of happiness and human dignity, linked to the foolishness of men instead of their courage. The play also condemns the helplessness of diplomacy, the manipulation of information by warmongers and the role played by some intellectuals. It can be seen as pessimistic, to the extent that it ends with the announcement that the Trojan War will take place, giving little hope regarding the future of European peace. However, the reader can also see this play as a call for resistance to the war mechanisms it denounces.
A few years afterwards, the Second World War took place as well. Giraudoux quit the public office and retired in January 1941. He then wrote his prophetic play, The Madwoman of Chaillot (“What is done with oil. Poverty. War. Ugliness. A miserable world”.) which was only played after his death. These two plays by Jean Giraudoux are still performed today in Paris and in many countries.
“A minute of peace is good to take.”