Forgetting Cinema


Frédéric Dard. Les Salauds vont en enfer, Presses Pocket, 1963

Novelisations, the transcription in book form of a successful  movie are part of its merchandising. Such books  are not really  meant to survive the cycle of the film’s commercial exploitation. Their sell-by date is short. After that, they tend to simply vanish. They are seldom remembered. Much less conserved. Even their authors are obscure.  The movie casts a long shadow.  The novelisation  is destined for oblivion. It is hardly  a way for a writer to gain status. Nor literary recognition. The 1956  novel by Frédéric Dard Les Salauds vont en enfer (the Wicked go to Hell)  however offers the curious case of a novelisation which has survived much longer than the film to which it owed its existence.

In this particular case,  the  eponymous 1956 Robert Hossein movie launched in effect two unexpected career. First, that of the book, written quickly during the shooting and published in time for the movie release. There have been  to date  eight new French editions since, the last one four years ago.  Not to mention translations in ten countries to date. Second, this novelisation started for good the Parisian career of author Frédéric Dard, who went on to publish some 30 more novels under his name in the subsequent years.  By comparison, the movie itself fared rather less well.  Hossein’s directorial debut had been highly anticipated. But the movie was panned by critics.  A young Truffaut took   ferocious delight in detailing, in a long review, the list of directorial faults  he found in it. Borde and Chaumeton, in their celebrated Panorama du film noir américain dismissed it as junk, without having seen it.

The book covers reflect this story . The story of  a book, which was never a replication of the movie, but a conscious other to it, and which withstood better the test of time. And of a writer who gained authority, literally making a name for himself in the process.

The first edition mentions the link to the movie which was released at the same time. Its back cover mentions (“un roman et un film d’une violence jamais égalée”.  But only the republication in 1963 (Presses Pocket ) uses pictures  from the movie on its cover ( images of Vidal and Marina Vlady, see above)


Frédéric Dard, Les Salauds vont en enfer, 1st edition, Fleuve Noir, 1956, Illustration Gourdon

Revue Detective SVE 1

Frédéric Dard, Les Salauds vont en enfer, 1st edition, Fleuve Noir, 1956

SVE 1970

Les Salauds vont en enfer ; Délivrez-nous du mal (Le dos au mur) ; L’homme de l’avenue, Le Cercle européen du livre , 1970

None of the subsequent republications with any of the three publishers did that. Their covers did forget the film, making no visual reference to it. At the same time, the name of the author is emphasized. The author of the book symbolically and visually has become much bigger than the title. His Portrait adorns the cover.


Éditions Fleuve noir, 1978


Fleuve noir, 1984


Presses pocket, 1989

SVE_Presses_Pocket_1991Presses Pocket, 1991

SVE_1995Presses Pocket, 1995

SVE_2011Fleuve noir, 2011

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