Edmond and Jules de Goncourt

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The Goncourt brothers: Edmond (left) and Jules (right)
Edmond de Goncourt

Edmond Louis Antoine Huot de Goncourt (born May 26, 1822 in Nancy ; † July 16, 1896 in Champrosay near Paris) and Jules Alfred Huot de Goncourt (born December 17, 1830 in Paris ; † June 20, 1870 there ) were French writers . The most famous French literary prize, the Prix ​​Goncourt , is associated with them.

Life and work

The Goncourts embodied a type not so rare in the 19th century: that of the author tandem. You are considered to be the founder of the literary current of naturalism .

Shortly before the revolution, her great-grandfather Antoine Huot bought his way into the nobility by purchasing a manor (French: seigneurie ) called Goncourt , her grandfather Jean Huot de Goncourt, a lawyer, was a member of the short-lived estates of 1789 and later a high judge. Her father, who died a few years after Jules was born, was an officer under Napoleon . Both brothers graduated from high schools in Paris, Edmond studied law and worked for several years in the Treasury .

In 1849, after their mother's death, they inherited a significant fortune and Edmond gave up his career. Both now lived for their interests, drawing, painting, writing and moving in the Parisian literary scene. In addition, although Jules was infected with syphilis in 1850 and has been ailing since then, they began to take longer journeys, recording their impressions in travel diaries. In autumn 1860 z. B. They traveled to Germany, including Berlin .

Above all, however, despite the age difference, they always worked together as authors: art critics, theater critics, historians, dramatists and, above all, novelists. Here they had the idea of exemplifying the doctrine of contemporary positivist philosophy in their novels , according to which humans are primarily determined by their genetic makeup (la race), their time (le moment) and their social environment (le milieu). With this they created a literary school, naturalism.

Her most important novels are Les hommes de lettres (1860), the story of a writer in his milieu; Sœur Philomène , the story of a nurse in her everyday life (1861); Renée Mauperin (1864), the story of a young upper-class woman in her milieu; Germinie Lacerteux (1865), the story of a maid who, as it were, ideally experiences all the good and bad that can happen to a maid (e.g. that she is unscrupulously exploited by the man she loves and ultimately sinks into debt); Manette Salomon (1867), the story of a woman in an artistic environment.

The biographies they wrote (e.g. by Marie Antoinette , Madame de Pompadour or Madame du Barry ) and the monographs on cultural history (e.g. L'Histoire de la société française sous la Révolution , 1854; L'Art du XVIIIe siècle , 1859 ff., or La Femme au XVIIIe siècle , 1862) are considered to be trend-setting today.

In 1865, however, her attempt as a playwright remained unsuccessful: the three-act play Henriette Maréchal was chosen because of her well-known closeness to Princess Mathilde, a niece of Napoleon III. , booed by young, republican parts of the audience and removed after a few performances.

A first-rate cultural-historical document is the diary (journal) that the brothers kept from the end of 1851 and that Edmond continued alone for twenty-five years after Jules' early death (1870). Because of the malice it pours over fellow writers and many indiscreet details, Edmond only brought out an adjusted version during his lifetime (nine volumes from 1887 to 1896). A preprint of excerpts that appeared in Figaro in 1885/86 had triggered a scandal and brought him a lot of hostility, even among former friends.

As early as 1874, Edmond decided in an initially secret will to use his fortune to found a ten-member academy whose mandate was to publish the journal in full 20 years after his death . Members should only be authors who did not belong to the Académie Française . In 1903, after the heirs had contested the will and the statute of the new academy had been officially approved, the members decided to award a literary prize that is to honor a newly published French-language novel every autumn: the current Prix ​​Goncourt , which is intended for the most coveted and most effective of the numerous French literary prizes.

Thomas Mann described the novels of the Goncourt brothers, especially Renée Mauperin , as a crucial inspiration for the writing of his Buddenbrooks .


  • no year, one-sided cast bronze medal, 119 mm, medalist: Jules Prosper Legastelois (* 1855). The medal shows the half-length portrait of the brothers in a row to the left.



  • Les hommes de lettres (1860; new ed. And T .: Charles Demailly , 1869)
  • Sœur Philomène (1861)
  • Renée Mauperin (1864)
  • Germinie Lacerteux (1865) (German translation by Bernhard Jolles: The maid Germinie . Der Bücherkreis , Berlin 1928; translation from the French and epilogue by Kurt Kersten : Maid Germinie Lacerteux . Laub, Berlin 1928)
  • Manette Salomon (1867)
  • Madame Gervaisais (1869)

Art, culture and moral history

  • Histoire de la société française pendant la Révolution (1854)
  • La Société française pendant le Directoire (1855)
  • Portraits intimes du XVIIIe siècle (new edition 1878, 2 vols.)
  • Sophie Arnould d'après sa correspondance (1857, 2nd ed. 1876)
  • Histoire de Marie-Antoinette (1858)
  • L'Art au XVIIIe siècle (started as a series of articles in 1859; 3rd ed. 1883, 2 vols.)
  • Madame Pompadour (1860)
  • Les maîtresses de Louis XV (1860)
  • La femme au XVIIIe siècle (1862)
  • Gavarni , l'homme et l'artiste (1873)
  • Madame Dubarry. A picture of life
  • L'Amour au XVIIIe siècle (1875) u. a.

After the death of Jules (1870) Edmond wrote the following novels alone:

  • La Fille Élisa (1878), the story of a street whore (numerous editions)
  • La Faustin (1882)
  • Chérie (1885)

He also published Les frères Zemganno (1879), a touching monument to brotherly love; the exhibition catalogs L'Œuvre de Watteau (1876) and L'Œuvre de Prudhon (1877); the cultural-historical work La Maison d'un artiste (1881); La Saint-Huberty d'après sa correspondance (1882) and letters from his brother ( Lettres de Jules de Goncourt , 1885).

Edmond's late work, two monographs on artists of the Japanese color woodcut , made a significant contribution to popularizing this art form in Europe.

  • Outamaro : Peintre des Maisons Vertes (Paris, 1891)
  • Hokusai (Paris, 1895)

Edmond de Goncourt published a selection in nine volumes from 1887 to 1896 under the title Journal . Since the heirs of Alphonse Daudet (who had been appointed as administrator) prevented the publication of the complete diaries in France, they could only appear outside of French jurisdiction in Monaco from 1956–1958. The 22 volumes were edited by Robert Ricatte on behalf of the Académie Goncourt. For a long time there were only selected issues in German. A complete edition in October 2013 Haffmans Verlag in Zweitausendeins published

  • Diary pages 1851 to 1895 , ed. v. H. Stümcke (Berlin and Leipzig 1905)
  • Diary of the Goncourt brothers. Impressions and conversations of important French people from the wartime 1870/1871 , ed. v. W. Fred (Munich 1917)
  • Diary of the Goncourt brothers. Politics, literature and society in Paris 1851–1895 , ed. v. Paul Wiegler (Munich 1927)
  • Diary of the siege of Paris 1870/71 , ed. v. Jörg Drews (Munich 1969)
  • Diaries. Records from the years 1851 to 1870 , ed. v. Justus Franz Wittkop (Frankfurt 1983)
  • Flashlights. Portraits from the 19th century , ed. v. Anita Albus (Nördlingen 1989), The Other Library series
  • Edmond & Jules de Goncourt. Journal. Memories from literary life , 11 volumes plus a supplement, ed. v. Gerd Haffmans (Leipzig 2013)

Secondary literature

  • Hutter, Manfred: Fantasy and Realism in the Fonts of Goncourt. Inaugural dissertation without publisher's name, Frankfurt a. M. 1959
  • Nonnenmacher, Kai, ›Nous aurions bien voulu écrire un roman à deux‹: Thomas et Heinrich Mann, lecteurs des Goncourt. Cahiers Edmond & Jules de Goncourt: publication annuelle de la Société des Amis des Frères Goncourt 8, 2001, pp. 204-213.
  • Nonnenmacher, Kai, ›Alors, il entre dans l'artiste une économie… la magnifique avarice bourgeoise de l'art!‹ Art economies of the collector in Edmond and Jules de Goncourt. In: Grenzgangs 12 (23: Grenz des Ökonomischen (Ed. Nonnenmacher, K./Blaschke, B.)), 2005, pp. 43–68.

Web links

Commons : Goncourt  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Notes and individual references

  1. Thomas Mann: Lübeck as a spiritual way of life (speech, given on June 5, 1926 in the Lübeck city hall). Lübeck 1926, p. 15.
  2. ^ Thomas Pekar: The Japan Discourse in the Western Cultural Context (1860-1920): Travel Reports - Literature - Art . Iudicium Verlag, 2003, ISBN 978-3-89129-113-9 ( google.de [accessed December 22, 2019]).
  3. ^ Doris Croissant: Japan and Europe 1543-1929: an exhibition of the "43rd Berliner Festwochen" in the Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin . Berliner Festspiele, 1993 ( google.de [accessed December 22, 2019]).
  4. Information on the first German complete edition of the Goncourt diaries
  5. Die Zeit December 12, 2013 / Jens Jessen : Genies of venom