Le livre de Christophe Colomb

Year: 1933

Author: Paul Claudel (1868 - 1955)

Artist: Jean Charlot (1898 - 1979)

Publisher: Éditions de la Nouvelle revue française

Title page of Le livre de Christoph Colomb

To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Paul Claudel's death, Le Monde devoted an entire page to the famous author. Claudel left behind an enormous body of work made up mostly of stage plays. But as the headlines pointed out, his was a 'controversial heritage'. He was well-known but not necessarily well-loved, and half a century after his death, Claudel is mostly known as a reactionary, highly prolific Catholic writer of little interest to a contemporary audience. But when one re-reads his work carefully, one can unexpectedly discover more liberated aspects and interesting contradictions in this author's work.

A nine-hour play

One of the reasons why Claudel's plays are met with such resistance is that they run for hours. There are examples of plays that take up to nine hours to perform. These works are therefore much better suited to be read than to be performed. It is precisely to that end that the lyrical drama Le livre de Christophe Colomb was published in 1933. This text about the 'divinely inspired' discovery voyage by Columbus was illustrated by Jean Charlot in black, red and blue. The typography is rather unusual for a printed play: the individual speakers have been indicated in a running text, and the stage directions are placed partially in the margin, as in a medieval manuscript. This suits the play's text, which is accompanied by a commentary as in an oratorio.

Bibliographical description

Description: Le livre de Christophe Colomb: drame lyrique en deux parties / par Paul Claudel ; ill. de Jean Charlot. - [Paris]: Éditions de la Nouvelle revue française, 1933. - 66 p. : ill. ; 28 cm

Printer: L. Massol (Gentilly, Seine)

Edition: 895 copies

This copy: 112 of 840 on Arches

Note: With a handwritten dedication by the author to Louis Koopman

Bibliography: Bénézit 3-501 ; Monod 2839

Shelfmark: KW Koopm A 147


  • Brigitte Salino, 'Au théâtre, l'héritage discuté de Paul Claudel', in: Le monde, 25 février 2005, p. 25.