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Reviewed by:
  • George Sand et Jésus
  • Mary Rice-DeFosse
Christophe, Paul. George Sand et Jésus. Paris: Les Editions du Cerf, 2003. Pp. 213. ISBN2-204 07062-9

In the preface to La Petite Fadette, written in September, 1848, George Sand expressed her notion of the place of faith in human life:

Tu perds donc la foi? me demanda mon ami scandalisé.

C'est le moment de ma vie, au contraire, lui dis-je, où j'ai eu le plus de foi à l'avenir des idées, à la bonté de Dieu, aux destinées de la révolution. Mais la foi compte par siècles, et l'idée embrasse le temps et l'espace, sans tenir compte des jours et des heures; et nous, pauvres humains, comptons les instants de notre rapide passage, et nous en savourons la joie et l'amertume sans pouvoir nous défendre de vivre par le coeur et par la pensée avec nos contemporains.

If faith is indeed measured over centuries, it is not surprising to find Paul Christophe's George Sand et Jésus among the many new books that have appeared during the bicentennial of Sand's birth. Although written by a Roman Catholic priest and historian, the book is not the blatant attempt to rehabilitate the writer as a Christian that the title might suggest. Instead, it is a study which makes questions of faith, usually treated as ancillary to other concerns, as the central lens through which to consider Sand's life and works.

There is little in this book that has not been rehearsed elsewhere. It traces the familiar events of the writer's biography as well as her literary production, often presented in the form of synopses of key works or their thematic content as it relates to Christian doctrine and ideas. The evolution of Sand's thought and religious experience over time includes her convent education and early aspirations of becoming a nun, her later disaffection from institutionalized religion and her increasing mistrust of the clergy, both Catholic and Protestant, and finally her rejection of the tenets of Roman Catholic dogma, in particular the divinity of Jesus. Christophe places Sand's writing in dialogue with lesser known correspondents such as the recently converted Henriette de La Bigottière and the [End Page 202] Polish poet and dramatist Stéphane Witwicki, with important figures who influenced her like the Abbé de Prémond, Lamennais, and Leroux, and with texts like Octave Feuillet's Histoire de Sibylle and Ernest Renan's Vie de Jésus. Christophe affirms the writer's continued belief in a loving and merciful Creator and in human progress. His central argument is stated clearly: "La religion de George Sand devient une recherche de l'amour à travers Dieu, comme sa vie était une recherche de l'amour à travers des êtres humains" (55). The book's broad sweep complements other, more developed critical analyses, notably Frank Paul Bowman's Le Christ Romantique and Isabelle Naginski's Writing for Her Life, to name but two.

The richest part of the study is undoubtedly the extensive use of Sand's own words throughout the text. The second part of the book is a series of 25 documents, excerpts from her fiction and correspondence, that highlight Sand's relationship to the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches and to God. The Sand that emerges is at once a skeptic and a profound believer. Anyone who has read Sand is already well aware of the spiritual dimensions in her writing. Christophe convinces the reader that she must read within the context of the nineteenth century, in which Christianity – in multiple forms – was a pervasive force.

Mary Rice-DeFosse
Bates College


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