Germain Nouveau was born in Pourrières, Var, as the eldest child, with three sisters, of a family
whose father was, for a time, a nougat manufacturer. His mother died when he was aged only six
and his father remarried. His eldest sister, Elisabeth, died in 1857 and his youngest sister,
Marie Pauline, in 1864, followed only a few days later by his father from smallpox. He was cared
for by his grandfather in Aix-en-Provence, however, where he attended the College Bourbon from
which he graduated in 1870. He then spent a year as a teacher in Marseilles before moving
to Paris in 1872.
He frequented the circle attended by several notable poets including Mallarmé and Cros. He met
Rimbaud upon the latter's return from Brussels and moved briefly to London with him. After later
travelling to Belgium and Netherlands, he moved to London again and met Verlaine, after the latter
had been released from prison, with whom he maintained a lengthy friendship until Verlaine's
Nouveau spent a brief time, in 1883, teaching in Lebanon before returning to France to teach drawing
but he suffered a mental illness that necessitated a stay of several months in an institution at Bicêtre.
In 1894, he was treated in an Algerian hospital for rheumatism and, in 1898, he resorted to begging
He subsequently undertook several religious pilgrimages but returned to Pourrières in 1911
where he lived a life of prayer and privation dying in 1920 after a prolonged period of fasting.
Nouveau reserved most of his output for posthumous publication but several works were published
during his lifetime under numerous pseudonyms.