Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Less than immortel

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 29 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1429
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

How immortal is literary immortality? The members of the Académie Française, always 40 in number, are called les immortels, but it is clear that many of them are forgotten within a few years of their death, and some sooner than that.

In his preface to Three Plays by Brieux, Bernard Shaw calls Eugène Brieux (1858-1932) the greatest French playwright since Molière, the equal if not the superior to Sophocles; but, so far at least, history has not agreed with him. Though Brieux was elected to the ranks of les immortels, his plays are now never performed.

This, perhaps, is because they deal exclusively, and didactically, with the social problems of his day; it is also why they …

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