Frédéric Dard

The King of Fools

Frédéric Dard – The King of Fools (translated by Louise Rogers Lalaurie), Pushkin Vertigo, 15.05.2017. Original title La pelouse, 1962

King of fools

A review by Eugen Kontschenko

“What was better? To be a murderer or a gullible fool?” (Page 145)

The King of Fools by Frédéric Dard begins in the sunny Côte d’Azur, where the story’s protagonist Jean-Marie Valaise spends his vacation after another break-up from his ex-girlfriend Denise. Due to an apparent small mishap, he meets Marjorie, a married Englishwoman, to whom he feels immediately drawn. Despite only having met her briefly, he senses she is unhappy with her husband and foolishly decides to follow her to Edinburgh. But when Jean-Marie arrives in Edinburgh, he realizes that Marjorie has secrets which are as twisted as the dark streets of the city, and equally as liable to ensnare. Continue reading

The Executioner Weeps

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

Bird in a Cage

Bird in a Cage.PNG

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

An Anticapitalist in China

Mausolée pour une garce chinois

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.

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Abstract Landscapes, Train Stations and Crime Fiction: Buffet, Carzou, San-Antonio

 

Carzou rails

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

Visions of Paris Suburbs in San-Antonio

Buffet

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