In two decades, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt has become one of the most widely read and performed French-language authors in the world. Acclaimed by audiences and critics alike, his plays have won several Molières and the French Academy’s Grand Prix du Théâtre. His books have been translated into 48 languages, and more than 50 countries regularly perform his plays. According to recent statistics (cf. column “Statistics”), he is now the most studied author in schools and colleges.
Born in 1960, he attended the prestigious Ecole Normale Supérieure where he was awarded a doctorate in Philosophy and the top French teaching qualification. Schmitt first made a name for himself in the theatre with Don Juan on Trial in 1991, then The Visitor, a play that posits a meeting between Freud and (possibly) God. The work soon became a classic and is now part of the international dramatic repertoire. Further successes quickly followed, including Enigma Variations with Alain Delon and Francis Huster; The Libertine with Bernard Giraudeau; Frederick or the Crime Boulevard with Jean-Paul Belmondo; Between Worlds with Rufus; Partners in Crime with Charlotte Rampling and Bernard Giraudeau; Mr. Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran with Bruno Abraham-Kremer; The Gospels According to Pilate with Jacques Weber; Oscar and the Lady in Pink with Danielle Darrieux; Sentimental Tectonics with Clémentine Célarié and Tchéky Kario; Kiki Van Beethoven with Danièle Lebrun; The Diary of Anne Frank with Francis Huster (a world premier with kind permission from the Anne Frank Foundation); Un homme trop facile with Roland Giraud; The Guitrys with Claire Keim and Martin Lamotteand; Einstein's Betrayal with Francis Huster, Jean-Claude Dreyfus and Dan Herzberg; Georges & Georges with Alexandre Brasseur and Davy Sardou, and Si on recommençait with Michel Sardou, both plays directed by Steve Suissa. On March 28th 2012, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt acquired the Théâtre Rive Gauche in Paris with Bruno Metzger, becoming at the same time the theatre’s artistic director. In 2015, he appeared at the Théâtre Rive Gauche with the ballet star Marie-Claude Pietragalla in a performance of The Elixir of Love adapted from his epistolary novel of the same name.
Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt is also the author of Le Cycle de l’Invisible, six tales about childhood and spirituality. All six stories have met with considerable success, as both novellas and staged productions. They are: Milarepa; Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran; Oscar and the Lady in Pink; Noah’s Child; The Sumo Wrestler Who Could Not Get Fat, The Ten Children Madame Ming Never Had and Madame Pylinska and Chopin's secrecy.
Much of his literary career has been devoted to writing novels. An early novel, The Sect of the Egoists, was followed by a book of light (The Gospel According to Pilate) and a book of darkness (The Alternative Hypothesis). Since then, he has written: When I was a Work of Art, a whimsical and contemporary version of the Faustus myth; Ulysses from Baghdad, a picaresque saga for our time that ponders the human condition; Three Women in a Mirror, a novel that traces the lives and adventures of three women from different times, united by a sense of their “otherness” and by their determination to escape the reflection in the mirror of their daily lives. The Parrots of the Place d'Arezzo, an exploration of contemporary tenderness, is a veritable encyclopedia of desire, sentiment and pleasure, while The Elixir of Love probes the mystery of love and attraction, and Love’s Poison describes the emotional awakening of four adolescent girls through the diaries they keep. In Night of Fire, Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt for the first time bares his inner spiritual and emotional life and reveals how a miraculous incident in the Sahara Desert has had a lasting effect on his whole life, as a writer and as a man. In his latest work, The Man Who Could See Through Faces, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt pursues his exploration of the spiritual mysteries in a disturbing novel that blends philosophy and suspense. In La traversée des temps (Crossing Time), the first volume of which, Paradis perdus (Lost Paradise), was published in 2021, Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt sets himself a significant challenge to tell the story of humanity in the form of a novel. Bringing together scientific, medical, religious and philosophical knowledge and creating strong, tender and very real characters, he propels readers from one world to the next, from Prehistory to our own time and from evolutions to revolutions, while the past illuminates the present. In the second volume, La Porte du ciel (2021) (Heaven's Gate), Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt plunges the reader with breezy erudition into a new investigation in the Near Middle East, in an era portrayed by the Bible. With the pen of a visionary and informed by the latest research in Assyriology, he reproduces the complexity and glories of Mesopotamia, a region we know so little about but to which we owe so much.
A champion of the short story, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt has published four highly acclaimed collections : Odette Toulemonde and other stories, The Dreamer of Ostend, Concerto in Memory of an Angel, awarded the prestigious Prix Goncourt de la Nouvelle (Goncourt Prize for the Short Story), Two Gentlemen of Brussels and The Revenge of Forgiveness.
Encouraged by the international success of his first film Odette Toulemonde with Catherine Frot and Albert Dupontel, he adapted Oscar and the Lady in Pink for the screen with Michèle Laroque, Amir and Max von Sydow (2009).
A keen music-lover and amateur musician, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt produced French libretti for the operas The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni. He has also written a book about Mozart, My Life with Mozart, a strikingly original collection of private correspondence with the composer. In the same vein, he followed this with When I Think that Beethoven is Dead when so Many Morons are Alive, and later an innovative version of Carnival of the Animals, a fable that goes to the heart of musical creation. With unbounded enthusiasm for every art-form, in October 2012, he made his debut at the Opéra National de Paris with The Bizet Mystery, an expression of his fascination with Georges Bizet and Carmen.
In 2014, audiences were treated to the premiers of two magnificent operas based on his texts: Oscar und die Dame in Rosa produced by Francis Bollon in Freiburg, and Cosi Fanciulli with a score by Nicolas Bacri, performed at St.Quentin-en-Yvelines and later the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.
In September 2013, fulfilling a lifelong dream, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt produced his first graphic novel The Adventures of Chick I – Who am I? with drawings by Janry, published by Dupuis. In 2015, he continued his incursion into the world of the graphic novel with The Adventures of Chick I, Volume 2 – Appearances are Deceptive.
A happy combination of circumstances led to his stage debut. Francis Lalanne, who was delighting audiences with his performance of Mr Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran at the Théâtre Rive Gauche in Paris, was unable to appear in all nine shows, because he already had a singing tour scheduled out of town. Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt’s friends insisted he step into the actor’s shoes. It was a baptism by fire that terrorised the author but won him standing ovations on the night. Since then, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt has performed his own works in France, Switzerland, Belgium, Canada, Italy and is now acting in French-language performances in a number of European countries.
In 2016, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt was unanimously elected a member of the Goncourt Jury, receiving Seat 2 in place of Edmonde Charles-Roux, and earlier, Jules Renard and Sacha Guitry.
Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt lives in Brussels. The Royal Belgian Academy of French Language and Literature awarded him Seat 33, previously occupied by Colette and Cocteau. All his French-language works are published by Albin Michel.