Pierre Loti – Rochefort Author

Pierre Loti
Pierre Loti (1850 to 1923) was an author whose real name was Julien Viaud. Loti was born in Rochefort at number 141 of the street that now bears his pen name. The son of municipal official, Loti was a well travelled naval officer, quite an accomplished sportsman and also a dandy. He was also a highly sensitive novelist and superb storyteller with many of his works being inspired by his voyages to exotic destinations around the world.

At the height of his powers, Pierre Loti was unquestionably the finest descriptive writer of his day. In his own highly sensitive manner, he reproduced the impression given to his own sensibility by unfamiliar forms, colours, sounds and perfumes and in this he was without a rival. However, he was not satisfied with this exterior charm; he desired to blend with it a moral sensibility of the extremest refinement, both sensual and ethereal.

Many of his best books are full of remorseful memory, so personal, so intimate, that an English reader is amazed to find such depth of feeling compatible with the power of minutely and publicly recording what is felt. In spite of the beauty and melody and fragrance of Loti’s books his habits are apt to pall upon the reader, and his later books of pure description were rather empty.

Loti caricatured by Guth for Vanity Fair, 1895His greatest successes were gained in the species of confession, half-way between fact and fiction, which he essayed in his earlier books. When all his limitations, however, have been rehearsed, Pierre Loti remains, in the mechanism of style and cadence, one of the most original and most perfect French writers of the second half of the 19th century. Loti died in 1923 at Hendaye and was interred on the Île d’Oléron with a state funeral.

Pierre Loti Books

His books include ‘Pecheur d’Islande‘ which depicts the romantic but inevitably tragic life of the Breton fishermen who sail each summer season to the stormy Iceland cod grounds, characterised by literary critic Edmund Gosse  as “the most popular and finest of all his writings.” Another work, ‘Madame Chrysanthème‘  is the autobiographical journal of a naval officer, temporarily married to a geisha while he was stationed in Nagasaki, Japan. It was books like these that led to him being inducted into the élite Académie Française at the young age of 41 years old.

Right: Loti caricatured by Guth for Vanity Fair, 1895

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