Frédéric Dard – The Wicked go to Hell (translated by David Coward), Pushkin Vertigo, 06.08.2016. Original title Les salauds vont en enfer, 1956
A review by Eugen Kontschenko
“I hope the good Lord above will be with you… Either the good Lord… or the Devil, because hell is where you’re going!” (Page 14)
The novel The Wicked go to Hell by Frédéric Dard has had a long journey. First written as a play, it was later adapted as a movie and only after that became a novel. It tells a gritty story about an undercover cop who is sent to jail to gather information from a spy. In order to get closer to and befriend each other, they are forced to share a cell. Sensing an upcoming opportunity, the two inmates named Frank and Hal plan an escape. Even though each is suspicious of the other, they form a bizarre bond as they flee from prison in search of a suitable hideout. But who is the cop and who is the spy? Continue reading
Frédéric Dard – Crush (translated by Daniel Seton), Pushkin Vertigo, 6 October 2016
(Original title : Les Scélérats, 1959)
A book review by Eugen Kontschenko
How low would you be willing to fall to live the American dream ?
Frédéric Dard’s novel Crush takes us to Léopoldville, a bleak and turbid industrial town in 1950s France. The residents of Léopoldville are mostly factory workers living simple lives. This is also the case for the novel’s protagonist Louise Lacroix, a 17-year-old girl who lives with her mother and drunken stepfather and, unsatisfied with her work at the factory, aspires to a fancier lifestyle. As she walks home after her shift, she passes by the house of the Roolands, an American couple considered wealthy in contrast with the others, due to the husband’s employment with NATO. Impressed by their house, their garden and especially their car, Louise is fervently drawn to them, envisioning an escape from her dreary life. Her wish seems to come true when the couple employs her as their live-in maid. But before long the American idyll begins to crumble. Continue reading
Dico Dard, selected by Pierre Chalmin, Fleuve Editions, 2015
Crime literature is judgemental. About crime and evil, of course. But also about places, people, times and the weather. Colourful metaphors and flippant comments have long formed part of the Noir stylistic horizon. Noir was recognised as a style before it was theorised as a genre. Chandler and his Chandlerisms, and Peter Cheyney and his far-fetched simile have contributed to enrich crime fiction with lively dialogues, and memorable pronouncements.
For an author like Frédéric Dard, who devoted more than 40 000 pages to telling the adventures of a fictional character, the legendary Commissaire San-Antonio from the Paris Police, aphorisms are strategic instances. Their laconism and directness contrasts with the profusion of the surrounding text. They emerge from the convoluted detective plot as referential anchors. They impress their own rhythm to the narration. They create a mood, and a mode which influence the reading. Their distance, humour, self deprecation, terseness and provocation are all essential part of the reading experience. Continue reading
Les salauds vont en enfer, Play by Frédéric Dard, Edited, introduced and annotated by : Hugues Galli, Thierry Gautier & Dominique Jeannerod, EUD, 2015, 238 pp.
Frédéric Dard was France’s most popular Crime Fiction author. Besides his career as a novelist, Dard was a prolific playwright, screenwriter and dialogue writer. The recent discovery and subsequent publication (EUD, 2015) of an original manuscript of the successful Play Les salauds vont en enfer allows to retrace the circuits of cultural creation in 1950’s France and the interrelation between various media and narrative forms. Created in the Grand Guignol Theatre in Paris in 1954 and directed by Robert Hossein, the play went on to experience a series of transpositions. First, in 1955, on screen (also directed by Robert Hossein), then as a novel, when in early 1956, it was novelised as a roman noir by Frédéric Dard, the author of the play. In 1971, Abdal Iskar adapted it as television film. A wealth of archives, generously shared by collectors and the author’s family have helped reconstructing the story of the play’s reincarnations and exportations. But working closely on the text of the play for this first edition (six decades after it had been written) also highlighted the importance of the international and intermedia horizons in the creation, as they are both already there in the author’s inspiration. Most of the following pictures, which document the variations and interpretations from media to media and in different countries, are reproduced in this edition, where they are fully referenced. Continue reading
The Club del Misterio Series (early to mid-1980’s) predates the Etiqueta Negra Series (mid- 1980’s to mid-1990). Both Series are devoted to Crime Fiction. Both have appeared post-Franco, and in a cultural context profoundly changed by the Movida. Both have published around 150 books of international Crime Fiction, the majority of them considered classics of the genre. While Etiqueta Negra is a series launched by a Madrid publisher, Jucar, Club del Misterio belongs to a Barcelona-based publisher, Bruguera.
But the most striking difference is their respective scope. The Madrid publisher puts the emphasis on selection and distinction. There are fewer authors, representing fewer countries, and a distinctive branch within the crime genre, the noir novel. On the contrary, the Barcelona series favours diversity : different subgenres, different authors, different countries. It is remarkable that the author most published in this series is Italian (Scerbanenco). Rather than American (or Spanish as is at the time the pattern elsewhere, when only local authors seem capable of resisting the American -and to an extent English- dominance). Continue reading
(Collection Thierry Gautier)
The Film Les Salauds vont en enfer (1956) was damned by critics (Truffaut called it a pitiful caricature of Jean Genet’s play Haute Surveillance). This did not prevent the movie’s commercial success, nor hinder its international career. The Posters reproduced here testify of this fortune. They reveal as well how the movie was reinterpreted in the process. Its main elements are reordered. On the posters, the original Psychological Thriller about two men’s identity is removed in the background. The Jailbreak drama is not shown. The Men’s movie (Les Salauds) has become a Marina Vlady Movie. The fact that her performance visibly inspired Brigitte Bardot’s in Vadim’s And God Created Woman, shot in Saint Tropez only a few month later certainly did not hurt. Vadim’s movie would launch Bardot’s myth, and reach worldwide audiences. Ironically thus, the legacy of Les Salauds vont en enfer appears not o have been in the noir genre, but in the representation of sexual desire in mainstream 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. Continue reading
Frédéric Dard, Geltonojo kambario paslaptis (Cette mort dont tu parlais, 1957), A. Puzo Redakcija, Vilnius, 1994
With thanks to Didier Poiret
The picture above is the cover of a book published 20 years ago in Lituania. It had since become virtually invisible. Even the most zealous of San-Antonio collectors will see it here for the first time. It has resurfaced last week thanks to the effort of Didier Poiret. The volume was published in Vilnius in 1994. It comprises two French Crime novels pertaining to different stages in the history of the genre. One is by Gaston Leroux, the other by Frédéric Dard. The latter is one of the earliest ” Romans de la nuit” published by Frédéric Dard in the Collection “Spécial Police” (Fleuve Noir) Continue reading