French novelist and polemical writer.
Born in Paris of partly Spanish descent, Bernanos was a staunch royalist and edited the royalist weekly L'Avant-garde from 1913 until his enlistment in World War I. Vehement and uncompromising, his political pamphlets attacked a range of targets. La Grande Peur des bien-pensants (1931) denounced the French middle classes; Les Grands Cimetières sous la lune (1938; translated as A Diary of My Times, 1938) condemned Franco's initiation of the Spanish civil war.
Bernanos made his name as a novelist with Sous le Soleil de Satan (1926; translated as Star of Satan, 1940), which depicts a priest's battle against Satan; this theme of the struggle between good and evil is further developed in La Joie (1929; translated as Joy, 1948) and in Bernanos's best-known novel, Journal d'un curé de campagne (1936; translated as The Diary of a Country Priest, 1937). The hero of the latter is a young and inexperienced priest who is constantly frustrated in his endeavours to bring his form of Christianity to an unreceptive parish.
In 1938, disturbed by political developments in Europe and shocked by the Munich agreement with Hitler, Bernanos left for Brazil with his wife and six children. He continued to express his views in pamphlets, such as Scandale de la vérité (1939) and Lettre aux Anglais (1942; translated as Plea for Liberty, 1944), and in radio broadcasts to his compatriots during World War II. While in Brazil he completed and published the novel Monsieur Ouine (1943; translated as The Open Mind, 1945), which had a mixed reception on its publication in Paris (1946).
At the end of World War II Bernanos returned to France. Dialogues des Carmélites, a film script set at the time of the French Revolution and based on the martyrdom of a group of nuns, was completed just before his death.