Perse, St.-John, pseud. of Alexis Saint-Léger Léger, 1887-1975, French poet and diplomat, b. West Indies. Léger, an opponent of appeasement of the Nazis, was enormously influential in France's foreign office and became known as one of Europe's foremost diplomats. His reputation as a poet of great lyric power grew after his self-imposed exile to the United States in 1940. Encouraged by Gide, he published his first poem, "Images à Crusoe," in 1909. His symbolic Éloges (tr. 1944) followed in 1911. For Amitié du Prince (1921) Léger drew upon ancient sacerdotal sources. Anabase (1924, tr. by T. S. Eliot, 1930), a symbolic history of mankind, brought him wide critical attention. Among his later works are Exil (1944, tr. 1949), Vents (1946, tr. Winds, 1953), Amers (1957, tr. Seamarks, 1958), Chroniques (1960, tr. 1961), and Oiseaux (1963, tr. 1966). His writings were published as Oeuvres complètes in 1972. His work has been translated by Auden, Eliot, and MacLeish. Léger was awarded the 1960 Nobel Prize in Literature.

See studies by A. Knödel (1966), P. Emmanuel (1971), and R. M. Galand (1972).

orig. Marie-René-Auguste-Aléxis Saint-Léger Léger

(born May 31, 1887, Saint-Léger-les Feuilles, Guad.—died Sept. 20, 1975, Presqu'ile-de-Giens, France) French poet and diplomat. He served in various diplomatic posts from 1914 until his dismissal by the collaborationist Vichy government in 1940. He spent the years 1940–57 in exile in the U.S. The language of his poetry, admired especially by poets for its precision and purity, is difficult, and he made little appeal to the general public. His works include Anabasis (1924; translated by T.S. Eliot), Exile (1942), Winds (1946), Seamarks (1957), and Birds (1962). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1960.

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