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Mérimée, Prosper

Mérimée, Prosper prôspĕr´ mārēmā´ [key], 1803–70, French author. He first wrote a collection of plays in imitation of Spanish drama, The Plays of Clara Gazul (1825, tr. 1825), and a collection of so-called Illyrian ballads, La Guzla (1827). His important historical novel, The Chronicle of the Reign of Charles IX (1829 tr. 1830, 1890), is marked by an objectivity and psychological penetration rare among the romanticists. He was master of a concise and understated style, most fully realized in his nouvelles, or long stories, for which he is best known. Outstanding examples include Colomba (1852, tr. 1853) Carmen (in Revue des Deux Mondes, 1845 as a book, 1846, tr. 1881), which was the basis of Bizet's opera La Vénus d'Ille (1837) and Letters to an Unknown (in Revue des Deux Mondes, 1873 as a book, 1874, tr. 1874). His short story, Mateo Falcone (1876), is a masterpiece of the genre. A cultivated man of the world, Mérimée was a student of archaeology, a linguist who translated Russian authors into French, and a senator under the Empire. He also wrote literary and art criticism and historical studies.

See biography by A. W. Raitt (1970) study by M. A. Smith (1973).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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