Romain Rolland was born on January 29, 1866, in the district of Nièvre. He studied literature, music, and philosophy, and in 1895 he published two doctoral theses: Les Origines du théâtre lyrique moderne, a work which was awarded a prize by the French Academy, and a Latin thesis, a study of the decline of Italian painting in the sixteenth century. Rolland made his debut in pure literature in 1897 with a play in five acts, Saint-Louis, which he published together with Aërt (1898) and Le Triomphe de la raison (1899), under the common title Les Tragédies de la foi (1909) [Tragedies of Faith]. From 1904 to 1912 Rolland published his great novel Jean-Christophe, Romain Rolland’s masterpiece, for which he has received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1915, is Jean-Christophe.
Rolland’s most significant contribution to the theatre lies in his advocacy for a “popular theatre” in his essay The People’s Theatre (Le Théâtre du peuple, 1902). “There is only one necessary condition for the emergence of a new theatre”, he wrote, “that the stage and auditorium should be open to the masses, should be able to contain a people and the actions of a people”
Rolland persisted in his quest for peace and was attracted by the non-violence movement of Ghandi, about whom he wrote a book (1924). His fascination with India and Buddhism led to the study Essai sur la mystique et l’action de L’Inde vivante (1929-30) [Prophets of the New India]. His political ideas were increasingly influenced by socialism, as is evident from his many essays. He died on 30 December 1944, at Vézelay, France