A Loser: Octave Mirbeau’s Evolution from Populist Right to Libertarian Left

  • Sharif Gemie
Keywords: Mirbeau, anarchism, aesthetics, Bonapartism, Impressionism, anti-Semitism


This paper is centred on the political turning-point in the life of Octave Mirbeau, best known as an anarchist journalist, novelist and playwright. Mirbeau’s first political affiliation was to Bonapartism (in the 1870s). In the early 1880s he appeared to be growing closer to some of the ideas of the New Right, and in particular wrote some anti-Semitic material. However, in the period 1883–87 he moved to a clear commitment to anarchism. This paper analyses the multidimensional nature of this turning point, at once cultural, aesthetic, personal and political, and considers the nature of Mirbeau’s anarchism. The most important aspect seems to have been anarchism’s openness to the themes of aesthetic freedom and experimentation.