Maps of Contempt


(Click to enlarge)

Edgar Allan Poe (1 occurrence)

Le Monde ‘s Data Visualisation team (Luc Bronner & Maxime Vaudano)  have produced a fascinating and revealing interactive map of French Schools names (
Based on publicly accessible data and the names of 67105 French Schools (public and private, and at all levels) it shows, without surprise, that many of these schools (some of them 200 years old) chose the name of a writer. But there are great disparities between writers, and the data tells about the omission of Crime fiction authors. It indicates an apparent stigma attached to this specific type of authorship, as Crime authors fare considerably less well than other, even much lesser known authors.  Edgar Poe, admitttedly not a French author is named only once. Gaboriau, the author of the first crime novel, zero.  Victor Hugo, by contrast (who invented with his inspector Javert a very memorable policeman, but  definitely not considered a crime author) had his name chosen by 365 schools.    It is more than surprising that some of the most read, most popular and internationally famous French authors (such as Gaston Leroux, the author of the Phantom of the Opera) don’t seem to have been deemed worthy of such distinction. When will a French school be named after  him, one of France’s more gifted writers? Or after Eugène Sue, or Frédéric Dard ?

Maurice Leblanc, the father of Arsène Lupin,  has only two schools to his name, and this is in the part of the Normandy region associated with one of his most celebrated novels (L’Aiguille creuse). Georges Simenon was chosen only once.
Simenon Carte
One of the pionneer of French Noir,  the poet Boris Vian fares better than most (15 schools) but this is probably not for this part of his output (written under the pseudonym of Vernon Sullivan, and the subject of much scandal in the postwar). It is rather for his connections with existentialists,  his bittersweet coming of age novel L’Ecume des Jours, and following his untimely death, his posthumous status as a teenagers and students icon.

 For a more positive outlook, one will choose to see in the popularity of  Poet  Jacques Prévert (472 schools to his name) an endorsement of his writing for the screenplay of classics such as  Renoir’s Le Crime de Monsieur Lange,  or  Le jour se lève, the proto-film noir by Marcel Carné.  And other crime films by Carné such as Drôle de drame, Le Quai des brumes and  Les Portes de la nuit.


With more claims even to be considered a genuine crime fiction writer (but again his consecration having very little to do with that aspect of his work), Emile Zola, the author of Thérèse Raquin, La Bête Humaine and L’Assomoir,  has 90 schools named after him. Of course Zola is foremostly a hero of the Republic for his action in the Dreyfus Affair, and his remains are in the Panthéon. This academic consecration appears thus  more like  a confirmation of this status, and only rather incidentally a celebration of a writer who was a seminal influence for realist authors worldwide, including the American hardboiled school.


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