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Saint-John Perse

AKA Marie René Auguste Alexis Léger

Born: 31-May-1887
Birthplace: Saint-Léger-les-Feuilles, Guadeloupe, France
Died: 20-Sep-1975
Location of death: Giens, France
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Seaside Cemetery, Giens, France

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Poet

Nationality: France
Executive summary: Exile

Alexis Léger's first published work was a French translation of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, and his early Anabasis was translated into English by T. S. Eliot. For many years he wrote as an after-hours diversion while pursuing his career as a diplomat, and his poetry, revered for its cosmic vision and lofty rhetoric, often appeared under the pen name Saint-John Perse.

In 1940, after his refusal to collaborate with the German-controlled French government, he was stripped of his French citizenship, and manuscripts reflecting more than a decade of his work were seized and destroyed by the secret police. He fled first to England, then the United States, where he worked for Archibald Macleish at the Library of Congress, and published some of his best work. He returned to France in 1957, and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1960. Born in the French territory of Guadeloupe, he was the first Caribbean-born writer to win this honor.

Father: Amédée Léger (attorney)
Mother: Francoise Renee Dormoy
Wife: Diane St Léger Léger
Wife: Dorothy Milburn Russell (m. 1940)

    University: BA (1904)
    Law School: JD, University of Bordeaux (1910)
    Scholar: Literary advisor, Library of Congress (1941-45)

    French Legion of Honor (revoked 1940, and later restored)
    Nobel Prize for Literature 1960
    Citizenship Revoked 1940 (French, later restored)

Official Website:

Author of books:
Éloges (Eulogies, and Other Poems) (1910)
Anabase (Anabasis) (1924, epic poem)
Exil (Exile) (1942)
Poème l'Etrangère (Poem to a Foreign Lady) (1943)
Pluies (Rains) (1943)
Neiges (Snows) (1944)
Vents (Winds) (1946)
Amers (Seamarks) (1957)
Chronique (Chronicle) (1960)
The Poet and the Diplomat: Peace and Conflict Resolution (2001, letters to and from Dag Hammarskjold, published posthumously)

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