He was nominated for the Nobel prize in literature sixteen times.
Jules Romains was born in Saint-Julien-Chapteuil in the Haute-Loire but went to Paris to attend first the lycée Condorcet and then the prestigious École normale supérieure. He was close to the Abbaye de Créteil, a utopian group founded in 1906 by Charles Vildrac and René Arcos, which brought together, among others, the writer Georges Duhamel, the painter Albert Gleizes and the musician Albert Doyen. He received his agrégation in philosophy in 1909.
In 1927, he signed a petition (that appeared in the magazine Europe on 15 April) against the law on the general organization of the nation in time of war, abrogating all intellectual independence and all freedom of expression. His name on the petition appeared with those of Lucien Descaves, Louis Guilloux, Henry Poulaille, Séverine... and those of the young Raymond Aron and Jean-Paul Sartre from the École normale supérieure.
His novel The Boys in the Back Room (Les Copains, literally "the pals") appeared in English in 1937.
During World War II he went into exile first to the United States where he spoke on the radio through the Voice of America and then, beginning in 1941, to Mexico where he participated with other French refugees in founding the Institut Français d'Amérique Latine (IFAL).
A writer on many varied topics, Jules Romain was elected to the Académie française on 4 April 1946, occupying chair 12 (of 40). He served as President of PEN International, the worldwide association of writers from 1936 to 1941. In 1964, Jules Romains was named citizen of honor of Saint-Avertin. Following his death in Paris in 1972, his place in the Académie française was taken by Jean d'Ormesson.
Jules Romains is remembered today, among other things, for his concept of Unanimism and his cycle of novels in Les Hommes de bonne volonté (The Men of Good Will), a remarkable literary fresco depicting the odyssey over a quarter century of two friends, the writer Jallez and politician Jerphanion, who provide an example in literature of Unanimism.
Romains originally considered unanimism to mean an opposition to individualism or to the exaltation of individual particularities; universal sympathy with life, existence and humanity. In later years, Romains defined it as connected with the end of literature within "representation of the world without judgment", where his social ideals comprise the highest conception of solidarity as a defense of individual rights.
The Red Envelope catalog company, in their 2007 Holiday catalog, surprisingly featured Les Createurs on the cover in a photograph, showing a female model playfully frustrated with her husband, a male model posing as a detached intellectual, half-heartedly helping her to decorate the Christmas tree, while his attention is focused on reading Les Createurs.Men of Goodwill (Les hommes de Bonne Volonté, 1932-1946; 27 volumes Paris: Calmann Lévy)
The body's rapture (Psyche), London: John Lane, 1933
Tussles with time (Violation de Frontières, 1951), London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1952
The Death of a Nobody (Mort de quelqu'un, 1911)