Max was much alike his grandfather Samuel who died when he was nearly 13. The portraits of him which have been discovered seem to be those of the poet. Depending on the different sources, the opinions Max had about his grandfather are multiple.
Max describes his grandfather as a man who was rather unkind and even
sarcastic but very spiritual. He said : « I loved the grandfather who never
hit me I loved him and him alone who blessed me and said : He here will go far
] I remember the day when somebody came to find me at school because my grandfather
had died. Before hearing the news I sensed it and began to cry while gathering
my books. »
When Max referred to his familys history he often had a tendency to invent. He often spoke about his grandmother of Avignon who seemed to be his paternal grandmother Mirthé-Léa the one who had an important influence on his life. He said that she washed poor peoples feet and did not eat without cutting her meal into two parts in order for them to have their share ; she was considered the very model of prayer silence and wisdom. The values that grandmother spread in judaism arent unconnected with his conversion.
The third important person in his life was his mother Prudence
admired but demanding sometimes even nervous and impatient. Yet she loved her son a
lot and Max strongly reciprocated her love. He dedicated Le Laboratoire Central
(The Central Laboratory) to her.
Apart from this he wrote her a letter to explain the intellectual movements of that time. Yet Max also declared to Edmond Jabes in 1939 he was tormented abused, and frequently beaten by his mother and his brothers and that he had attempted to commit suicide about three times. He said that he had been miserable since birth. Other sources tend to indicate that once more he had exaggerated and that he was not as miserable as he claimed.
As for his father Max has pleasant memories of him. « He
was a picture of dignity combined with a most glowing happiness ». On the other
hand his relationship with his brothers and sisters were sometimes quite conflictual. As a
result there was a coldness between Julie-Delphine Gaston and himself until
their mothers death. Yet he loved his little sister Mirthé-Léa a lot.
Max began his studies at the grammar-school for boys La Tour dAuvergne in Quimper.
In 1894 he obtained the tenth honourable mention in philosophy and then in
1895 he enrolled himself at the colonial school of Paris.