Review by Dr Pravin Thevathasan
Not that Claudel was always a believer. Following an unhappy childhood, during which time he had ceased to believe, he underwent a sudden conversion at the age of eighteen while hearing vespers on Christmas day. Nichols notes that Claudel's faith was central to his life and his work.
Although his life in the French diplomatic corps was a busy one, he continued
to read widely and he set aside time for writing. He was also a loving husband and father. He was especially influenced
by Rimbaud and the French Symbolists, many of whom finally returned to the faith of their childhood.
Claudel proclaims that the joy of eternity is what matters- even if it means suffering in this life. Such is the fate of the two main characters in his play "Le Soulier de Satin." We are left in little doubt that their love will break open into something greater through renunciation.
In "L'Annonce faite a Marie," it is love that motivates Violaine toforgive.The price she has to pay for eternal joy is death.
In "The Five Great Odes," the poet is seen as participant in the creation process. Nichols elaborates for us a number of symbols found in this work including that of water.
Nichols has produced a wonderful thelogical study of a much neglected poet.