Bernanos` first novel and which brought him public notice was Sous le soleil de Satan [Under Satan's Sun or Under the Star of Satan](1926)
Some years ago Le Monde`s readers declared it one of the most important novels of the Twentieth Century. It is not well known at all in Anglo-Saxon countries.
The protagonist is another young priest, Abbe Donissan who some critics thought was based on the Cure of Ars
The book was written before Bernanos came fully under the influence of Saint Therese of Lisieux. Therese of Lisieux was canonised on 17 May 1925. It is a very different work from The Diary of a Country Priest (published 1936)
Like The Diary of a Country Priest, Under Satan`s Sun relates how a young, recently ordained and zealous priest finds himself caught up in the interior suffering of the people of his parish while at the same time undergoing his own personal experience of the dark night of the soul. He has saintly gifts.
But Under The Sun of Satan is a very melodramatic work. Bernanos started writing it after he had served in the First World War. He finished it while still in Action Française before it was banned by Pope Pius XI.
His theology developed before he came into his own in Journal d'un curé de campagne (1936) and Dialogues des carmélites (Dialogues of the Carmelites) (1948)
The protagonist in the course of his struggle meets the Devil. The Devil offers him the gift to see into the souls of men and women. He accepts. The devout priest becomes involved with a murderess. A number of tragedies ensue.
It has remained a popular work. In 1987 Maurice Pialat directed a film based on the book. Gérard Depardieu played the lead role of Donissan
Below are two clips from the film: one is the trailer with English subtitles; the other is the scene where the priest meets the Devil
For more about Geoeges Bernanos and some of his works see:
Georges Bernanos: The Theological Source of His Art by Joseph Cunneen in Christianity and Literature, Spring, 2009
Mentors and proteges: spiritual evolution in Georges Bernanos' Under Satan's Sun and The Diary of a Country Priest by Mary Frances Dorschell in Christianity and Literature, Autumn, 2002
Hans Urs von Balthasar Bernanos: an ecclesial existence