Massmarket Paberbacks, Crime Fiction, and Pop Existentialism


Some iconic crime fiction series like the influential Série Noire constituted, in the aftermath of WW2, a canon of existential (ist) literature in the guise of noir fiction. Sartre famously reported in his 1964 autobiography, that he preferred reading the Série Noire to Wittgenstein. Affinities between authors such as James Cain, published in the series, and Albert Camus became clear. This is perceptible in paperback series such as Penguin, where classics of crime fiction are found alongside classics of general literature, making it obvious that they  share much of the same themes, outlook and tone. And, crucially, as an effect of their inclusion and juxtaposition in the series, the same readers.

Here are a few books published in the 1950s by Penguin in America. Some are considered crime fiction and some not, but all share similar thematic, bleakly existential features, which the commercial packaging here seems to highlight.

MAIGRETpenguin579  DOS PASSOS penguin577 SERENADEpenguin621


FAULKNERpenguin632 MURDERpenguin641 JOURNEYMANpenguin646

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