20th Century French Poet
In 1959, a year before winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, Saint-John Perse (1887-1975) was awarded the French Grand Prix National des Lettres and the Grand Prix International de Poésie and made an honorary member of the U.S. Modern Language Association; in 1961, he was elected to honorary membership in the American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letters. But his talents extended beyond the realm of literature. Saint-John Perse is the nom de plume of the noted French diplomat Alexis Leger. Born on an island of Guadeloupe, Leger was educated in France and entered the French Foreign Service which took him to China in 1916. His political career, culminating in the post of Secretary General of Foreign Affairs, ended abruptly in 1940 when Leger, a confirmed anti-Nazi, was deprived of his citizenship by the collaborationist Vichy government. He sailed to the U.S. where he remained until 1967, and wrote the greater part of his oeuvre.