The Executioner Weeps

Frédéric Dard – The Executioner Weeps (translated by  David Coward, Pushkin Vertigo, 09.03.2017, original title Le bourreau pleure, 1956)

A BOOK REVIEW BY EUGEN KONTSCHENKO

“And then suddenly everything had changed. Yes, everything, and all on the account of that supine figure which had come out of the night and leapt into the bright lights of my car.”  (Page 10)

Thus, the highly popular French crime noir author Frédéric Dard introduces to his price-winning novel The Executioner Weeps. The book follows the story of Daniel Mermet, a famous French painter, who is on vacation in Fascist Dictatorship Spain when he accidentally hits a young and beautiful woman with his car. The woman survives, but Mermet soon discovers that she lost her memory. Taking care of her, Daniel falls in love with the mysterious stranger and goes on a quest to France to gather information on her past – a past full of lies and vice which is too horrible to remember.

The novel is a dark psychological thriller that hides under the blanket of a love story. Dard uses to great effect this blurring of genres to create a suspenseful story; a story that provides plenty of twists and surprises as it unfolds. Daniel is a likeable protagonist but his infatuation soon takes a dark and complex turn. While he seems to identify with the part he  plays when taking good care of  the amnesic woman and falling in love with her, there is also something sinister and obsessive in his attentions. Dard plays cruel games with the reader who finds it easy, initially, to identify with Mermet, whose actions seem comprehensible and motivated by altruism, however misguided and catastrophic. The novel sunny setting, in Spain, creates a strange contrast with the gradual darkening of the character’s outlook, and the subsequent discoveries made in a gloomy mansion in a western suburb of Paris; beautiful landscapes, wide open beaches contrast with a gradual sense of threat and entrapment, and the presence of Franco’s police. The love story set in Spain soon evolves into something more terrifying and gothic, even. The book is full of intriguing plot twists and suspenseful developments, and Dard is a master at showing things from different sides at the same time, creating a sense of uncertainty and dread in even the most innocuous looking circumstances. Giving the reader one clue after another he moves the events forward very carefully, starting with minor details and becoming more and more intense and brutal towards the end. The fact that the novel takes  its time to establish a setting and giving the reader enough time to get to know the characters, before, twist after twist, crushing their lives in a classical crime manner is one of the plot’s great strengths.

While Dard takes great pleasure in describing the situations in detail, some of the passages do feel a bit rushed from time to time. Sometimes Dard provides a solution which seems just a tad too easy for the problem, but this never actually takes from the interest of the story. Rather, it suggests that the focus of the author lies elsewhere, or that he relies on his formidable skill as a storyteller to take the reader just about anywhere he pleases.  A more serious problem with the story is that not all aspects seem to stand the test of time. Certainly the pleasure one takes from reading it today is linked to the fact that the novel is typical of French crime novels of the 1950’s. The lost world they recreate comes complete with the worldview that inhabited it.  But the depiction of women in Le Bourreau Pleure feels very dated and from today’s point of view over-sexualized. This begins immediately when Mermet after hitting the woman with his car, begins to admire her beauty before even thinking to get her to the doctor. The readers begins soon to  worry, and to wonder why  he constantly sees the unknown woman as his possession. She is driven and displaced, treasured and hidden as if she was a valuable good; the narrator takes a suspicious delight in her dependence, which after a while looks like enslavement. His part as her guardian and protector does not leave her any room for agency or freedom. He gives away his troubled agenda when he states : “I was living the dream all men have: of loving a woman without a past.” From a 21st century perspective, one really would at the very least beg to differ.  Luckily, these moments are rare and far apart which makes it easy to just look over them, but they do leave a bitter taste while reading.

Nonetheless, The Executioner Weeps is a fine,  successful and compelling melodramatic crime noir. Despite the flaws already mentioned,  it tells a great story full of suspense and intriguing twists. This novel  provides newcomers with a good insight into the work of Frédéric Dard and his unsettling world of crime noir. Or, maybe a more apt generic description would be that of noir romance ?

Online exhibition: A History of Crime Fiction in Greece

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The International Crime Fiction Research Group is glad to present a new online exhibition hosted on the Omeka-based online database “Visualising Crime Fiction,” sponsored by the AHRC  (the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council) and the Universities of Belfast, Limoges, and Debrecen, in partnership with the Bilipo. A Brief History of Crime Fiction in Greece was authored by Nikos Filippaios, currently a PhD student at the University of Ioannina, and provides a concise outline of the development of the genre in this country, with particular attention to the impact of international crime fiction on the local creative industries.

Filippaios starts his overview by stressing the success of the earliest translations of modern popular fiction that arrived from Western Europe in the second half of the 19th century. He then highlights the key transformations of crime narratives in Greece throughout the 20th century, and particularly up to the 1980s, when a new generation of local writers started to use the genre to investigate the troubled national history during the post-war era.

The exhibition is structured in four sections, each dealing with a specific historical moment:

  • The early period from the late 19th century to the 1930’s. This phase was characterized by the influence of classical (i.e. French and Anglo-Saxon) detective fiction and the introduction on the local market of new publishing formats, such as the dime novel, which were imported from the United States at the beginning of the new century.
  • The 1950’s and 1960’s. These two decades were crucial for the development of the genre, and for the history of popular culture in Greece more in general, as the translation of American fiction and comics had a strong impact on the local market and deeply influenced the work the first important Greek authors, such as Giannis Maris. The 1960’s, in particular, witnessed a flourishing of new series and periodicals offering a great variety of national and international crime narratives addressed to a more diverse public, including the emerging urban middle class and a new generation of young readers.
  • The 1970’s. While Filippaios emphasises that the scarcity of information available on this decade makes a rigorous scholarly assessment difficult, it would be hard to underestimate the importance of this period for the modernization of crime fiction in Greece, and of Greek popular culture as a whole. In particular, popular fiction and cinema participate in the cultural liberation of the 1970’s by contributing to more explicit representations of violence and sex, a phenomenon that is most apparent when looking at the covers of the crime novels published at this time.
  • From the 1980’s to the present day. The last section highlights the increasing cultural legitimization of the genre, resulting in a transformation of its forms and contents. On the one hand, local writers embrace crime fiction as a respectable literary practice and utilize it to express their social and political views. On the other hand, the publishing industry acknowledges the historical and cultural value of this tradition, presenting classic and modern works of crime fiction in more and more sophisticated and prestigious editions.

In addition to Fillippaios’s introductory texts, the exhibition consists in a collection of images showing the richness and multiplicity of this long but still largely unknown under-appreciated history, providing almost 140 scans of book covers that span over an entire century.

To see the full exhibition, follow the link : A Brief History of Crime Fiction in Greece

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Networks and Connections in the Crime Genre

International Crime Genre Research Group 7th biennial conference:

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Networks and Connections in the Crime Genre

Friday 26 – Saturday 27 May, 2017

National University of Ireland, Galway

 

Under the broad title of ‘Networks and Connections’ we invite proposals related to the following areas:

 

Networks in crime and in crime detection:

  • Criminal gangs, people trafficking, drug cartels
  • The movement and influence of global capital
  • Cybercrime and hacking
  • Collaboration between national police forces in investigating crime
  • Political corruption
  • Collaboration between repressive state apparatuses
  • Terrorism and counter-terrorism

Transnational links

  • Mobility: Ease with which the modern criminal and detective can cross national boundaries
  • Diaspora and identity, old and new worlds in contact (e.g. Scandinavians in the USA, Croats in Chile)
  • Asylum seekers; refugees; impact of political violence and forced migration; exile
  • Economic migration

Comparative Connections in the ongoing development of the genre

  • Comparative approaches to the study of genre production at the level of form and content
  • Histories of influence in the nineteenth and twentieth-centuries
  • Contemporary productions and their mutual influences.

Language Communities

  • For instance can we speak of Anglophone and Francophone traditions across all the territories where those languages are spoken?
  • What of multilingual regions and nations like Spain or India?
  • What is the position of minority languages and cultures in the genre?

Postcolonial legacies and connections

  • The modern legacy of colonial ties and cultural connections
  • Resistance and Imagined communities
  • Shared places and conflicting politics

 

As always, we welcome submissions from those working on crime fiction and film, wider media production, criminology, anthropology etc. Our founding ambition since our first conference in 2005 is to bring together researchers from a broad range of areas to see what points of commonality emerge when we share our perspectives.

Organising Committee:Dr Kate Quinn (NUIG); Dr Dominique Jeannerod (QUB); Dr Marieke Krajenbrink (UL)

Please send your abstracts to kate.quinn@nuigalway.ie by Friday March 17th, 2017

Murder in the Age of Chaos: Investigating Italy’s Past

pezzottiBarbara Pezzotti, Investigating Italy’s Past through Historical Crime Fiction, Films, and TV Series: Murder in the Age of Chaos (London and New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2016).
 
 
This book is the first monograph in English that comprehensively examines the ways in which Italian historical crime novels, TV series, and films have become a means to intervene in the social and political changes of the country. This study explores the ways in which fictional representations of the past mirror contemporaneous anxieties within Italian society in the work of writers such as Leonardo Sciascia, Andrea Camilleri, Carlo Lucarelli, Francesco Guccini, Loriano Macchiavelli, Marcello Fois, Maurizio De Giovanni, and Giancarlo De Cataldo; film directors such as Elio Petri, Pietro Germi, Michele Placido, and Damiano Damiani; and TV series such as the “Commissario De Luca” series, the “Commissario Nardone” series, and “Romanzo criminale–The series.”  Providing the most wide-ranging examination of this sub-genre in Italy, Barbara Pezzotti places works set in the Risorgimento, WWII, and the Years of Lead in the larger social and political context of contemporary Italy.
 
“With this book, Barbara Pezzotti completes a trilogy of sorts begun with The Importance of Place in Contemporary Italian Crime Fiction (2012) and continued with Politics and Society in Italian Crime Fiction (2014). Considering the vast production of historical detective fiction in Italy, she argues that the genre serves to consider the past from alternative perspectives from those of official historiography, and to give a voice to those on the margins of mainstream historical accounts. Pezzotti is a superb close reader, and balances an attention to the text with complex theoretical and historiographic questions such as the role of memory in shaping individual and collective identity, and individual responsibility in the face of the collective crimes of the Fascist regime.” (Luca Somigli, Professor of Italian Studies, University of Toronto, Canada)
“With this book, Pezzotti further cements her reputation as the foremost expert on the intersection of place, history, and national identity in Italian crime fiction. Essential reading.” (Robert Rushing, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA and author of “Resisting Arrest: Detective Fiction & Popular Culture”)
“Evincing deep familiarity with her material, Pezzotti shows in this ambitious study how recent novels, films, and television series dealing with the Italian past mediate ideological positions from the coeval political culture.” (Alan O’Leary, Associate Professor of Italian, University of Leeds, UK and author of “Tragedia all’italiana: Italian Cinema and Italian Terrorisms, 1970-2010”)
“Pezzotti’s fine book presents an authoritative overview of recent Italian crime fiction. Lucidly written and compellingly interdisciplinary, this book emphasises the capacity of crime fiction to fill in the gaps left by historians, and the power and relevance of cultural responses to a contested and difficult past.” (Philip Cooke, Professor of Italian History and Culture, University of Strathclyde, UK and author of “The Legacy of the Italian Resistance”)
“Pezzotti’s fascinating study shows how crime fiction has been used to probe and question Italy’s historical open wounds and unresolved legacies. The Risorgimento, Fascism and the war, and the anni di piombo are each carefully illuminated in turn through the lens and intelligent eye of the contemporary giallo.” (Robert S. C Gordon, Serena Professor of Italian, University of Cambridge, UK and author of “The Holocaust in Italian Culture, 1944-2010”)
(From the publisher )
For more info:

Xmas in a cage

« Les cauchemars sont des choses personnelles qui deviennent ridicules lorsqu’on essaie de les raconter. Il faut les vivre, seulement les vivre… »

Frédéric Dard (Le monte-charge) p. 149

(“Nightmares are personal things that become absurd when you try to tell them to other people. You can experience them, that’s all you can do…”)

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Originally published in 1961 by the enormously prolific, and yet little-known in the English speaking world, Frédéric Dard (1921 – 2000), Le monte-charge has been translated and released this year by Pushkin Press as Bird in a Cage.

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An unerringly dark read, Bird in a Cage is a satisfying twist on the Christmas whodunnit. With a narrative propelled as much by chance happenings as characters’ choices, this short novel (128 pages in the English edition) will pose as many questions as it will answer and will surely thwart any Christmas cheer. It is 2016 after all…

Michèle Morgan

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Yves Allégret, Les Orgueilleux, 1953

The French actress Michèle Morgan  died yesterday in Paris, aged 96. She was the last great surviving icon of the  age of Poetic Realism.  This distinctively French  expressionist  style and mood from the 1930’s anticipated Film Noir. Her early screen persona was that of a teenage femme fatale (most notably as Nelly, in  Carné’s 1938  Port of Shadows and in Grémillon’s  Stormy Waters,  for which filming started in 1939 ). This image captivated generations of movie goers,  and film makers. The mythic aura she instantly acquired became a kind of curse as the  decades went by.  Morgan seemed increasingly trapped in the distant past of a disappeared world, in a cinematic moment which had been nostalgic to begin with.  Most memorably, she starred in movies by classic poetic realist and noir directors, such as Marcel Carné, Jean Grémillon, Julien Duvivier and Yves Allégret, but also in films by Jean Delannoy and Michael Curtiz. Missing out to Ingrid Bergman for  Casablanca, she co-starred with Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre on another Curtiz directed war Film, Passage to Marseille.

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Trouble Is Our Business: New Stories by Irish Crime Writers

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Fri 25th November 6.30pm, No Alibis, 83, Botanic Avenue, Belfast

An evening of chat about Crime Fiction on the Emerald Isle with Declan Burke, John Connolly and Others

Thrilling, disturbing, shocking and moving, Trouble Is Our Business: New Stories by Irish Crime Writers is a compulsive anthology of original stories by Ireland’s best-known crime writers.

Patrick McGinley, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Colin Bateman, Eoin McNamee, Ken Bruen, Paul Charles, Julie Parsons, John Connolly, Alan Glynn, Adrian McKinty, Arlene Hunt, Alex Barclay,  Gene Kerrigan, Eoin Colfer, Declan Hughes, Cora Harrison, Brian McGilloway, Stuart Neville, Jane Casey, Niamh O’Connor, William Ryan Murphy, Louise Phillips, Sinéad Crowley, Liz Nugent

Irish crime writers have long been established on the international stage as bestsellers and award winners. Now, for the first time ever, the best of contemporary Irish crime novelists are brought together in one volume.

Edited by Declan Burke, the anthology embraces the crime genre’s traditional themes of murder, revenge, intrigue, justice and redemption. These stories engage with the full range of crime fiction incarnations: from police procedurals to psychological thrillers, domestic noir to historical crime – but there’s also room for the supernatural, the futuristic, the macabre.

As Emerald Noir blossoms into an international phenomenon, there has never been a more exciting time to be a fan of Irish crime fiction.

Reviews

‘This collection can be confidently recommended to anyone who reads any type of crime fiction. They will find something to tease and tantalise their inner detective.’ – The Irish Times 

‘Trouble Is Our Business is one of the essential literary fiction compendiums in Irish publishing this year.’ –  Sunday Independent 

‘A crime anthology certain to keep you on the edge of your seat’ – The Sunday Times 

About the Editor

Declan Burke is a writer, editor, journalist and critic. He has published six crime novels, several of which were shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards, edited Down These Green Streets: Irish Crime Writing in the 21st Century, and co-edited, with John Connolly, the award-winning Books to Die For. His novel Absolute Zero Cool won the Goldsboro ‘Last Laugh’ Award.

 

 

 

“Noire is the New Noir” Conference

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Saturday November 5th, 2016

Room, C-104, American University of Paris, Combes building,

6, rue du Colonel Combes. 75007 Paris

 

08h30 – 09h00 – Registration

 

09h00 – 09h15 – Welcoming remarks (Alice Craven & Russell Williams)

 

09h15 – 10h45 – Panel one, ‘Contextualising Noir Transnationally’, chair – Lucas Hollister

Natacha Levet (Université de Limoges), “Translating America through the Série Noire, from Marcel Duhamel to Aurélien Masson”

Alistair Rolls (University of Newcastle, Australia), Clara Sitbon (University of Sydney) and Marie-Laure Vuaille-Barcan (University of Newcastle, Australia), “Making Marcel Duhamel a Great Man for French Crime Fiction”

Benoît Tadié (Université Rennes 2), “Along the Ideological Divide: Female, Gay and Lesbian Noir between American paperback collections and the Série Noire”

 

10h45 – 11h00 – Pause

 

11h00 – 11h45 – Plenary session one

Dominique Jeannerod (Queens University, Belfast), “Spectres of French Noir: the long shadow of the Série Noire in French Literature and Culture”

 

11h45 – 13h30 – Lunch

 

13h30 – 15h00 – Panel two, ‘The Challenges of Noir: Translation and Transformation’, chair – Alice Craven

Cécile Cottenet (Université Aix-Marseille), “The transatlantic economics of the Série Noire

Sophie Bélot (University of Sheffield), “Jean-Luc Godard’s conflict with-in the Série Noire”

Tyechia Lynn Thompson (Howard University), “Text Mining Race and Travel in Chester Himes’s Ne nous enervons pas!, The Heat’s On, and Cotton Comes to Harlem

 

15h00 – 15h15 – Pause

 

15h15 – 16h45 –Panel three, ‘Close-up on the néo polar’, chair – Russell Williams

Sophie Vallas (Université Aix-Marseille), “Jerome Charyn’s noir New York and its French echoes”

Jean-Philippe Gury (Université de Bretagne Occidentale), “Amila, Série Noire et province”

Lucas Hollister (Dartmouth College), “Jean-Patrick Manchette, Alain Delon and the politics of French hard-boiled masculinity”

 

16h45-17h00 – Pause

 

17h00 – 18h00 – Panel four, ‘21st Century Noir’, chair – TBC

Jean Anderson (Victoria University of Wellington), “Noir (enfin) de femme…  women of the Série noire

Alice Jacquelin (Université de Poitiers), “Benoît Minville et Pierric Guittaut: l’avènement d’un country noir à la française?”

 

18h00 – Refreshments served

 

18h00 – 19h30 – Plenary session two

Aurélien Masson (Série Noire), Dominique Manotti (novelist) and Russell Williams (AUP) in conversation

Conference : New Approaches to Studying Crime Narratives (Tampere)

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October 14, 2016

Pinni B3107

9.00-10.00     Registration (for speakers only), Pinni B Main Lobby

10.00-10.15   Opening of the symposium

10.15-11.15   Keynote speaker: Dr Christiana Gregoriou, University of Leeds: “On Novelisation:    The Case of The Killing

11.15-11.45   Coffee

11.45-13.15   Session 1

  • 11.45-12.15: Dr Veronique Desnain, University of Edinburgh, UK: “Fiction versus History in the French Neo-polar”
  • 12.15-12.45: Dr Anna Pehkoranta, University of Jyväskylä, Finland: “Whose Crime? Guilt, Innocence, and the Weight of History in Yiyun Li’s Kinder Than Solitude
  • 12.45-13.15: Dr John A. Stotesbury, University of Eastern Finland/Joensuu: “The Crime Scene as Museum: The (Re)construction in the Bresciano Series of a Historical Gibraltarian Past”

13.15-14.15   Lunch

14.15-15.15   Session 2

  • 14.15-14.45: Dr Eric Sandberg, University of Oulu, Finland: “Thomas Pynchon and the Rise of the Crime Novel”
  • 14.45-15.15: Dr Aino-Kaisa Koistinen, University of Jyväskylä, Finland: “Nordic Noir and the Affective Politics of Violence”

15.15-15.30   Coffee

15.30-17.00   Session 3

  • 15.30-16.00: MA Carola Maria Wide, University of Vaasa, Finland: “Woman in Red and the Abject in Unni Lindell’s Crime Thriller Rødhette
  • 16.00-16.30: Dr Andrea Hynynen, University of Turku, Finland: “Rethinking Queer, the Anti-normative and Politics in French Crime Fiction Studies”
  • 16.30-17.00: Dr Tiina Mäntymäki, University of Vaasa, Finland: “Encountering the (Non-)human Other in Swedish Crime Series Jordskott

 17.00-17.30   Closing

(19.30-          Dinner)