An encouraging article by Dalya Alberge in The Observer marks the first publication in English of one of the “Novels of the night” (romans de la nuit) by Frédéric Dard. The much anticipated Bird in a Cage, (Le Monte Charge), translated by David Bellos, is out this month, published by Pushkin Vertigo. Continue reading
北方妇女儿童出版社, 1988 (Frédéric Dard, Mausolée pour une garce, originally published as Les Derniers mystères de Paris, Fleuve Noir, 1958)
With thanks to Didier Poiret, Thierry Gautier & Yue Ma,
As its original title suggested (Les Derniers mystères de Paris) the book whose Chinese cover is shown above was conceived by its author, Frédéric Dard, as a great popular novel in the tradition of Eugène Sue’s Mysteries of Paris. Sue’s was one of the first novels serialised in the French press (it was published in the Journal des Débats between June 1842 and October 1843). Its latent ideologies were vigorously criticised by Karl Marx, who debunked ( in The Holy Family, 1845), its paternalist views and bourgeois moralism.
It is therefore surprising and more than a little ironic that Dard’s homage to Sue, published in Chinese in 1988 by Northern China Women & Children Publishing House in Chang Chun (in the north-eastern Province of Jilin) should be presented as a criticism of bourgeois society. The novel is prefaced in this edition by a short introduction which frames it ideologically, blaming capitalist worldviews for the corruption and ultimate demise of Agnes, the “garce” (i.e. the bitch) of the original title.
Jean Carzou (1907-2000), Les Caténaires, 1967
In a short passage which appears at first glance to encapsulate his populist views on art, bestselling French crime author San-Antonio likens the British Museum, which he professed to hate (“that most abhorrent place on earth, the most sinister ! A quintessential cemetery!”) to the Paris train station Saint-Lazare “with its smell of coal, pee and sweat”. While, according to him, in the Museum’s “cold light, the work of men becomes inhuman”, Saint-Lazare station, “full of cries and kisses” reminds him, “with its black beams that crisscross in the smoke” of “a drawing by Carzou” (San-Antonio, Y’a de l’action, Paris, Fleuve Noir, 1967; see the original French below). Continue reading
Bernard Buffet (1928-1999), Buildings en banlieue, 1970
San-Antonio, France’s most popular author of crime fiction of the past 50 years, was fascinated with the bleakness of the Parisian suburbs, where he moved to in 1949. His prolific oeuvre documents this morbid fascination, somewhere between horror and nostalgia. His novels are full of notations and recurring observations about the suburban tragic as the author experienced it. Suspending the investigation he his conducting, the first person narrator, Commissaire San-Antonio turns his attention momentarily to the representation of the surrounding space, the banlieues which were then rapidly sprawling around Paris. Continue reading
San-Antonio, Entre la vie et la morgue, Paris, Fleuve Noir, 1959.
Published in the summer of 1959, exactly ten years after the first novel written by Frédéric Dard under his penname San-Antonio, this is the 36th San-Antonio novel. There is now an audio version, read by Claude Lesko. Continue reading
(Images courtesy of François Kersulec)
(Click to enlarge)
In 1955-6 Frédéric Dard, the author of the famous, best selling San-Antonio adventures, also published in the same series (Spécial Police, Fleuve Noir) four novels of pure violence, which he signed “Kaput”. This is also the name of the protagonist. Frantically brutal and death-driven, the stories race through their plots straight to the inescapable culmination in the last novel, titled Mise à mort (1956). When republished in France in the 1990s, they were presented as ” the dark side of an immense writer”. Prior to that, two had been translated into Spanish and published in Argentina in 1964. There, they were advertised as “Mas violento que Rififi!”, presumably capitalizing on the international success of Jules Dassin’s film, rather than on Auguste Le Breton’s original novel (Du Rififi chez les hommes).
Frédéric Dard dit San-Antonio, Y a-t-il un Français dans la boîte à gants ?, Paris, Omnibus, May 2015, ISBN : 9782258116726 .
The two books which have just been published together in the prestigious Omnibus edition are a landmark in the career of France’s most successful crime fiction author. This is where San-Antonio officially meets Frédéric Dard, and where the two faces of the prolific double-author merge. Signed (on their original publication) ‘San-Antonio’, even though the eponymous character of the San-Antonio series does not feature, the books are closer to the dark and despairing atmosphere of the books previously signed ‘Dard’ (the “Romans de la nuit”). Published respectively in 1979 and 1981, one before and one after the election of François Mitterrand, the first socialist President of the 5th Republic, their subject matter is politics. Conspicuously however, they don’t contain any of the huge sense of anticipation which Mitterrand’s election triggered in the social discourse at the time. Rather, they reflect the social unrest and atmosphere of scandals and corruption in the final years of the presidency of Mitterrand’s predecessor, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. They tell the story of an ambitious career politician, who hides a terrible secret, the legacy of an unsavoury past, buried in his home. Continue reading
The San-Antonio International conference took place last week end at Queen’s University, Belfast, under the aegis of the Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities and the School of Modern Languages. It gathered specialists, scholars, collectors and members of the public from around the world. They came to discuss (in French, mostly) the immense body of work left by one of France’s most famous popular writers, Frédéric Dard, aka San-Antonio. Joséphine Dard, his daugther, attended the conference and took part in the discussions. People came together who don’t normally get to talk together. Genuinely multidisciplinary, the conference relied on expertise from various fields (from American Studies to Linguistics, from Cultural History to Literature studies), on public and private collections, and on new digital tools. The multiplicity of approaches and expertise allowed to tackle precise research questions on a defined and contained (if vast) corpus of texts Continue reading