Jean Follain

Jean Follain (29 August 1903 – 10 March 1971) was a French author, poet and corporate lawyer.[1][2][3] In the early days of his career he was a member of the "Sagesse" group.[4] Follain was a friend of Max Jacob, André Salmon, Jean Paulhan, Pierre Pussy, Armen Lubin, and Pierre Reverdy.[4] He was a contributor to many journals, such as La Nouvelle Revue française, Commerce, Europe, Le Journal des Poètes and Les Cahiers des Saisons.[4] In 1970, he was awarded the Grand Prize of Poetry from L'Académie française for his life's work.[4] A small part of his archives is conserved at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Saint-Lô in France.[3] Prix littéraire Jean Follain de la Ville de Saint Lô is a literary award honouring his name and contributions to French literature.[3] He studied law in Paris and became a judge.[5] He died in 1971 in a car accident.[6][7]

Jean Follain


Signature of Jean Follain

Jean Follain was born in the small town of Canisy (province of la Manche), south of Saint-Lô, where he spent his childhood. He attended a middle school (Collège, the title of a later prose work) where his father was professor of the Natural Sciences. In 1919 he went to Leeds in a vain attempt to improve his English, and in 1921 he began studying law at Faculté de Caen. For health reasons he was exempted from military service.

In 1927 he passed his bar exams in Paris and started attending the meetings of the group "Sagesse" ("Wisdom") where he made the acquaintance of André Salmon, Pierre Reverdy, Pierre Mac Orlan and Max Jacob.[4] In 1933 he published his first collection with Eugène Guillevic and Pierre Albert-Birot. In 1934 he married painter Madeleine Dinès, a daughter of the Nabi artist Maurice Denis. In 1939 he received the Mallarmé Prize. Jean Follain received the Prix Blumenthal in 1941, awarded to poets who refused to collaborate with the Vichy Government.

In 1951 he gave up his career as a business lawyer and was appointed to the post of judge (magistrate) of the High Court in Charleville.[8] In 1949 he became a member of the Board of the "Pen Club". In 1957, he travelled to Thailand and Japan, and in 1958 he received the International Award of Capri. In 1960 he travelled to Brazil, Peru and Bolivia and in 1966 to the United States. He also visited Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal in 1967. He resigned from the bench in 1961, attending to the cultural decade of Cerisy-la-Salle near Canisy. In 1970 he received the grand prize for poetry from L'Académie Française.[3] He died in Paris on 10 March 1971 when, returning from a banquet given by the Boat Touring Club, he was run over by a car shortly after midnight at the outlet of the tunnel of the Quai des Tuileries. He was buried on 16 March in Canisy.

The "Reading Association at Saint-Lô" and the city of Saint-Lô with the assistance of the Regional Direction of Cultural Affairs of the Lower Normandy Regional Centre of Letters and the Council General of France organise a biannual literary prize in his name: Jean Follain Prize in the city of Saint-Lô.[3]


  • Usage du temps (1943)[4]
  • Exister (1947)
  • Tout instant (1957)
  • Appareil de la terre (1964)
  • Transparence of the World (1969) (Copper Canyon Press, 2003) (translated and selected by W. S. Merwin)
  • Espaces d'instants (1971)
  • Death of the Ferret[9]
  • The Black Insect
  • Habit
  • Empire
  • Face the Animal
  • From Elsewhere (2014, The Gallery Press) (translated and selected by Ciaran Carson, plus poetic meditations by Carson on the subject poems)


  • Paris (1935)[4]
  • Canisy (1942)
  • Chef-Lieu (1950)
  • Transparence of the World
  • D'Après Tout


  • Mallarmé Prize (1939)
  • International Prize of Capri (1958)
  • Grand Prize of Poetry (L'Académie française 1970)
  • Prix Blumenthal (1941)


  1. ^ "The World's Lawyer Poets". Archived from the original on 20 August 2008. Retrieved 14 April 2008.
  2. ^ "Against the Amnesiacs: The Art Criticism of Jean Bazaine, 1934–1944" Paper by Natalie Adamson The George Rudé Society 2005 Conference Quote: Bazaine, interview with Natalie Adamson, Clamart, 27 January 2001. Bazaine was able to see documents detailing the corporatization reforms thanks to the poet Jean Follain, son-in-law of Maurice Denis who was designated president of the Comité d’études chargé des arts graphiques et plastiques until his firm withdrawal from the office
  3. ^ a b c d e prixjeanfollain
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Washington University in St. Louis Archived 1 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Jean Follain". Archived from the original on 14 June 2007. Retrieved 12 April 2008.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  6. ^ imdb bio
  7. ^ Jean Follain: 130 Poems Quote: He continued to live in Paris until his death in a street accident in 1971
  8. ^ LE MONDE DE JEAN FOLLAIN Quote: ...son expérience de magistrat,.. Translation: ...his experience as magistrate...
  9. ^ New York Review of Books Death of the Ferret Volume 13, Number 3 · 21 August 1969