A book review by Jonas Rohe, Queen’s University Belfast
Fredéric Dard – The Gravediggers’s Bread (translated by Melanie Florence), Pushkin Vertigo, 28/06/2018. Original title Le pain des fossoyeurs, 1956.
Then I went and sold the butcher a stupendous coffin lined with silk, which would have made someone who loved comfort positively want to die! (P. 145)
Blaise Delange is down on his luck. Without a job or money, he finds himself in a small town in the French countryside far from his home in Paris. The only thing keeping him from leaving this miserable nest is a mysterious blonde woman, whose bulging purse he finds on the ground. Fascinated by this unknown beauty, he discovers that she is in fact the local undertaker’s wife, and proceeds to return her lost possessions. Impressed by his apparent honesty, the undertaker offers him a job as his assistant. Even though Delange has neither the interest for nor any experience in the gravedigger’s trade, his desperate financial situation and growing interest in the undertaker’s young wife mean he accepts. Continue reading
Frédéric Dard – The King of Fools (translated by Louise Rogers Lalaurie), Pushkin Vertigo, 15.05.2017. Original title La pelouse, 1962
A review by Eugen Kontschenko
“What was better? To be a murderer or a gullible fool?” (Page 145) Continue reading
Frédéric Dard – The Executioner Weeps (translated by David Coward, Pushkin Vertigo, 09.03.2017, original title Le bourreau pleure, 1956)
A BOOK REVIEW BY EUGEN KONTSCHENKO
“And then suddenly everything had changed. Yes, everything, and all on the account of that supine figure which had come out of the night and leapt into the bright lights of my car.” (Page 10)
Thus begins the highly popular French crime noir author Frédéric Dard’s prize-winning novel The Executioner Weeps. The book follows the story of Daniel Mermet, a famous French painter, who is on vacation in Francoist Spain when he accidentally hits a young and beautiful woman with his car. The woman survives, but Mermet soon discovers that she has lost her memory. Taking care of her, Daniel falls in love with the mysterious stranger and goes on a quest to France to gather information on her past – a past full of lies and vice and horror, which would be better forgotten. Continue reading
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
Presented as “The literary descendant of Simenon and Céline” and as “one of the few twentieth-century authors to win both critical acclaim and great popularity”, Frédéric Dard (1921-2000) will be introduced this year to English readers with some of his darker novels. Pushkin Vertigo will publish, starting in June with Bird in a cage (Le Monte -charge), and continuing with The Executioner Cries, available in Autumn 2016, a selection of his romans de la nuit. It is an euphemism to say, that, some sixty years after their original publication in French, this event has been hugely anticipated. Continue reading
Frédéric Dard, Cette mort dont tu parlais (1957), 1393
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