Ultimately a meditation on the corruption of power, Anatole France’s Revolt of the Angels (1914) utilizes the theological metaphor of Satan as a force fa voring free inquiry, the War in Heaven a metaphysical battle against universal tyranny. Arcade, an angel who has strayed from Heaven to study Philosophy and History on Earth seeks to re-assemble Lucifer’s legion to overthrow the detached and intolerant God of Heaven. Satan, calling upon his legions exclaims:
“‘Comrades,’ said he, ‘we must be happy and rejoice, for behold we are delivered from celestial servitude. Here we are free, and it were better to be free in Hell than serve in Heaven. We are not conquered, since the will to conquer is still ours. We have caused the Throne of the jealous God to totter; by our hands it shall fall. Arise, therefore, and be of good heart.”
“The Gardener’s Story” is a passage from The Revolt of the Angels. The excerpt provides a history of Western Civilization told from the perspective of one of Lucifer’s legion.
Read “The Gardner’s Story”: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV or download a PDF of The Satanic Temple Canon
Bernard Schweizer’s review of The Revolt of the Angels on Religious Dispatches
The Revolt of the Angels is available in it’s entirety for free on Gutenberg and Archive.org
Click here for an audio recording of The Revolt of the Angels.
Biography: Anatole France
France’s first great success was the novel “Le Crime de Sylvestre Bonnard (1881), which was honored by the Académie Française. France later became a member of the Académie in 1896. He published an autobiographical novel in 1885, “Le Livre de mon ami” [“My Friend’s Book”], which he followed up with “Pierre Nozière” (1899), “Le Petit Pierre” (1918), and “La Vie au fleur” (1922) [“The Bloom of Life”].
France was the literary critic on the “Le Temps” newspaper, and his reviews were published in a four-volume collection entitled “La Vie littéraire” [On Life and Letters] between 1888 and 1892. It was in this period that France wrote historical fiction about past civilizations, focusing particularly on the transition from paganism to Christianity. He published “Balthazar” (1889), a story of the conversion of one of the Magi, and “Thaïs” (1890), about the conversion of an Alexandrian courtesan. Approximately half of France’s output appeared in periodicals and newspapers. The style of his novels was rooted in elegance and a subtle irony.
He protested the unjust conviction of Captain Alfed Dreyfuss for treason and the anti-semitism of the French establishment that permitted his persecution, and developed an empathy for socialism. After the Dreyfus Affair, in which he came out in support of Zola, Dreyfus’ great champion, France’s work became more engaged socially and slanted increasingly towards political satire. In 1908, he published a satire about the Dreyfus Affair, “L’Île des pingouins” [“Penguin Island”]. Also that year, his biography of Joan of Arc was published. His other major works of his later period include “Les Dieux ont soif (1912) [“The Gods are Athirst”], a novel about the French Revolution, and “La Révolte des anges” (1914) [“The Revolt of the Angels].
Anatole France was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1921, “in recognition of his brilliant literary achievements, characterized as they are by a nobility of style, a profound human sympathy, grace, and a true Gallic temperament.” In the presentation Speech by E.A. Karlfeldt, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, the author of historical novels about the transition from paganism to Christianity was praised for limning “a faith purified by healthy doubts, by the spirit of clarity, a new humanism, a new Renaissance, a new Reformation.”
Karlfeldt would go on to praise France as “the faithful servant of truth and beauty, the heir of humanism, of the lineage of Rabelais, Montaigne, Voltaire, [and ]Renan,” but first, he would honor him as embodying the best of French civilization and letters:
“Sweden cannot forget the debt which, like the rest of the civilized world, she owes to French civilization,” Karlfeldt said. “Formerly we received in abundance the gifts of French Classicism like the ripe and delicate fruits of antiquity. Without them, where would we be? This is what we must ask ourselves today. In our time Anatole France has been the most authoritative representative of that civilization; he is the last of the great classicists. He has even been called the last European. And indeed, in an era in which chauvinism, the most criminal and stupid of ideologies, wants to use the ruins of the great destruction for the building of new walls to prevent free intellectual exchange between peoples, his clear and beautiful voice is raised higher than that of others, exhorting people to understand that they need one another. Witty, brilliant, generous, this knight without fear is the best champion in the sublime and incessant war which civilization has declared against barbarism. He is a marshal of the France of the glorious era in which Corneille and Racine created their heroes.
France used the occasion to denounced the Versailles Treaty as being unjust and a continuation of the Great War and called for the instillation of common sense among diplomats lest Europe meet its doom. After France received his Prize from the King of Sweden, after all the laureates had again ascended the rostrum, France turned to Professor Walther Nernst, the German Nobel laureate for chemistry, and shook his hand cordially for an extended time. The gesture profoundly moved the crowd as the symbolism of the meeting of the heart (literature) and the head (science) and of two nations so recently engaged in waging a ruinous war against each other was not missed. The audience applauded the gesture as a symbol of reconciliation between France, the nation, and Germany.
Anatole France’s writings were put on the Index of Forbidden Books of the Roman Catholic Church in the 1920s. Between 1925 and 1935, France’s collected works were published in 25 volumes.
Anatole France died on October 12, 1924 in Tours, Indre-et-Loire, France and was buried in the Ancient Cemetery of Neuilly, Hauts-de-Seine.
Excerpted biography by Jon C. Hopwood