Paul Claudel and Japan: the diplomatic and artistic career of the Poet-Ambassador (1921-1927)

By Pascal Lécroart, senior lecturer at the Université de Franche-Comté, Head of the Arts and Literature Centre in the ELLIADD Laboratory

The attraction Paul Claudel (1868-1955) felt for the Far East originally arose from a well-known fin-de-siècle culture, shared by many of the artists of his generation. In becoming a career diplomat, the writer would however have the means to undertake a more extensive study. Vice-consul initially and then consul in China from 1895 to 1909, he had the opportunity to visit Japan for the first time in June 1898, and this was a powerful poetic revelation for him. He therefore welcomed his first appointment as ambassador to Japan thirteen years later, a move that opened up new artistic and aesthetic horizons to him, an intrinsic part of his diplomatic mission. The lecture aims to analyse this particularly fruitful yet tangled relationship by looking at the intercultural dialogue that ensued.