Jean Anouilh: Life, Work and Criticism


44 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-919966-42-X





Reviewed by Renate Usmiani

Renate Usmiani was Professor of English at Mount St. Vincent University in Halifax.


With this monograph, Christopher Smith has achieved a genuine tour de force: within the extreme restraints imposed by the York series (creating an “authoritative” and fully documented study in 40-plus pages), he has produced an extraordinarily informative, interesting, and well-written little volume on an author as prolific and complex as Jean Anouilh.

The secret of his success lies essentially in the proportioning of the material: “A Biography of Jean Anouilh,” seven and a half pages; “Anouilh’s Themes,” eight and a half pages; “Anouilh’s Techniques,” nine and a half pages; “Annotated Bibliography,” three pages.

In the biography, Smith manages to give an excellent overview, situates Anouilh in his historical context, briefly discusses the importance of the leading contemporary directors (Pitoeff, Dullin, Jouvet) on his work, and ends with a summary of his critical reception in France and abroad. By dividing the critical discussion of the work into the perhaps old-fashioned categories of “themes” and “techniques,” he is able to present the reader with a dual focus, which helps to clarify and categorize the Anouilh opus. Here, again, a broad comparatist approach adds depth to the discussion — e.g. , the importance of Pirandello and of the “Cartel” on Anouilh’s work.

While Smith’s study obviously cannot escape the limitations of the series, including the extremely small offset print, it does provide the reader with a remarkable amount of useful information as well as good critical insight. Well done.


Smith, Christopher, “Jean Anouilh: Life, Work and Criticism,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 16, 2024,