Julien Green (1900–1998)


Julien Green (born Julian Hartridge Green) was an author best known for his novels, plays, essays, and a multi-volume journal that he wrote from 1928 to 1996. In 1971 he became the first non-French national to be accepted as a member of the prestigious Académie Française, the self-described “guardians of the French language.” Green attended the University of Virginia, where a small collection of his papers is now housed. Some of his writing, inspired by his experiences as a student there, dealt primarily with homosexuality, Catholicism, and the conflict between the desires of the body and the aspirations of the soul.

Green was born in Paris on September 6, 1900, to Edward and Mary Hartridge Green, Americans of English descent who had strong connections to the American South. His family had moved from Georgia to France to escape the financial difficulties and hardships that followed the American Civil War (1861–1865). The youngest of seven children, Green was raised speaking French. He claimed to have learned English by reciting the Lord’s Prayer with his mother, a devout Protestant who, like many of her time, abhorred any overt expression of sexuality. This experience instilled in Green a deep religiosity that eventually led him to convert to Catholicism at the age of fourteen, soon after his mother’s death.

At age seventeen, Green wanted to become a monk but his father refused to let him do so, insisting he see more of the world first. So instead Green joined the American Field Service, a volunteer ambulance corps assisting troops in Europe during World War I (1914-1918). In 1919, he began three years of study at the University of Virginia. While at the university, Green began his career as a writer when his essay “The Apprentice Psychiatrist” was published in the May 1920 issue of the University of Virginia Magazine. Although Green left for France in 1922 before completing his studies, he was profoundly affected by his time at the university.

During the 1920s and early 1930s, many of Green’s novels were published, including Avarice House (1926), The Closed Garden (1927), and Midnight (1936). Most of his novels depict their protagonists’ violent struggles against desires considered to be sinful, such as greed or, in his autobiographical novel The Other Sleep (1930), homosexuality. The metaphysical trials of his middle-class characters reflected Green’s own efforts to reconcile his sexuality with his spirituality.

Fleeing war-torn France for New York in 1940, Green spent World War II (1939-1945) working for the U.S. Office of War Information. He returned to Paris and to literary life in 1945 to begin an intensely productive, if personally difficult, period. His foreign upbringing and unrealized homosexuality made him feel isolated but also provided the background for his 1950 novel Moïra. His most famous works from this time include South (1953), a play about a Confederate soldier on the eve of the Civil War that became the basis for an opera by Kenton Coe; and The Transgressor (1956), the story of a young woman and a middle-aged man both in love with the same person.

In 1956, Green suffered a personal crisis that caused him to renounce the sensual world and to focus on his spirituality. Accordingly, his work dealt increasingly with historical and religious subjects. He published a three-volume autobiography in the 1960s. In the 1980s, he wrote a biography of Saint Francis of Assisi and a trilogy of historical novels set in the southern United States. Green died in Paris on August 13, 1998, less than a month before his ninety-eighth birthday.

Major Works


  • Mont-Cinère (1926)
  • Adrienne Mesurat (1927)
  • Christine (1927)
  • Les Clefs de la mort (1927)
  • Suite anglaise (1927)
  • Le Voyageur sur la terre (1927)
  • Christine, suivi de Léviathan (1928)
  • Léviathan (1929)
  • Le Voyageur sur la terre—Les Clefs de la mort—Christine—Léviathan (1930)
  • L’Autre Sommeil (1931)
  • Epaves (1932)
  • Le Visionnaire (1934)
  • Minuit(1936)
  • Journal, 14 volumes (1938–1990)
  • Personal Record, 1928—1939 (1939)
  • Varouna (1940)
  • Memories of Happy Days (1944)
  • Les Œuvres nouvelles (1943)
  • Si j’étais vous (1947)
  • Moïra (1950)
  • Sud (1953)
  • L’Ennemi (1954)
  • Le Malfaiteur (1955)
  • L’Ombre (1956)
  • Chaque Homme dans sa nuit (1960)
  • Pamphlet contre les catholiques de France (1963)
  • Partir avant le jour (1963)
  • Diary, 1928–1957 (1964)
  • Mille Chemins ouverts (1964)
  • Terre lointaine (1966)
  • L’Autre (1971)
  • Discours de réception de M. Julien Green à l’Académie Française (1972)
  • Liberté (1974)
  • Jeunesse (1974)
  • Memories of Evil Days (1976)
  • La Nuit des fantômes (1976)
  • Le Mauvais Lieu (1977)
  • Ce qu’il faut d’amour à l’homme (1978)
  • Dans la gueule du temps (1978)
  • Pamphlet contre les catholiques de France, suivi de Ce qu’il faut d’amour à l’homme; L’Appel du désert; La Folie de Dieu (1982)
  • Paris (1983)
  • Frère François (1983)
  • Histoires de vertige (1984)
  • Demain n’existe pas (1985)
  • Villes (1985)
  • Le Langage et son double/The Language and Its Shadow (1985)
  • Les Pays lointains (1987)
  • L’arc-en-ciel: 1981–1984 (1988)
  • Les etoiles du Sud: roman (1996)
  • L’homme et son ombre (1991)
  • La fin d’un monde: juin 1940 (1992)
  • The Apprentice Writer (1993)


  • Sud (1953)
  • L’Ennemi (1954)
  • L’Ombre (1956)

September 6, 1900
Julien Green is born in Paris, France.
Writer Julien Green begins three years of study at the University of Virginia.
Author Julien Green leaves the United States and returns to France.
Running from the events of World War II, Julien Green flees France for New York.
In the wake of World War II, Julien Green returns to Paris, France, and to writing.
August 13, 1998
Julien Green, novelist, playwright, and essayist, dies in Paris, France.
  • Clabough, Casey. “Out of Space, Out of Time”: The Virginia Novels of Julian Green. Hollins Critic 43:5 (2006 December): 1-16.
  • Newbury, Anthony. Julien Green: Religion and Sensuality. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1986.
  • Wildgen, Kathryn Eberle. Julien Green: The Great Themes. Birmingham, Alabama: Summa Publications, 1993.
  • Green, Jean-Eric. Album Julien Green. Paris: Gallimard, 1998.
  • Fayet, Nicholas. Julien Green: J’ai aimé (Biographie). Paris:Bartillat, 2003.
APA Citation:
Armbrecht, Thomas. Julien Green (1900–1998). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/green-julien-1900-1998.
MLA Citation:
Armbrecht, Thomas. "Julien Green (1900–1998)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 23 Jun. 2024
Last updated: 2021, December 22
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