A Literature of Exclamations


Noir Fiction is a literature of affects. It depicts passions, surprise, anguish, despair, and tragedy. Exclamation marks are a  way of expressing and highlighting these  feelings and tensions textually. Orders are shouted, threats are uttered, insults are exchanged. Cruel realisations are made, usually too late. Wrong turns were taken. Fortunes are lost. Lives come to an end.   Exclamation marks, in the San-Antonio novels, stress  the urgency of the plot and the impulsive, ill-tempered nature of the first person narrator. They suggest his lack of restraint. They mark his own accentuation, they force his own tempo. Like a music conductor, the author dictates the rhythm of his score. San-Antonio’s tendency to “over-ponctuate” is manifest.  Exclamation signs can be found both in the narration and in  the dialogues.  They  even find a way into the paratexts, in the titles, including the titles of chapters (Chapter XIII of Du mouron à se faire (1955) is ominously titled :” OH! OH!”). But how can machine- reading a text confirm and help refine this empiric observation made by the reader ? How many times, exactly, does San-Antonio use the exclamation mark in each of his novels ? Are there patterns, is there an evolution?  The following is the data that a computer, reading some novels by San-Antonio will find.  Continue reading

Snapshots of San-Antonio

San Antonio Poster 1

(With thanks to Owen Fenton)

Ostensibly, the  Art on the covers of San-Antonio paperback books captures moments in time. The 1950’s and 1960’s illustrations by famous artist Michel Gourdon (1925-2011) are archive images of these distant times.  They look even more distant in Owen Fenton’s  collage.  There, masked liked diapositives, framed like Kodak photographs,  they form the  rough shape of a representation of the United States reminiscent of Jasper Jones.   They are precisely composed candid photographs of the myths and archetypes of their epoch,  ideologically charged celebrations of the  consumers society. If  they are magic for us now, it is for  their ability to  re-present a past that never truly existed, outside of them.

Francocentric Fiction

San Antonio Sun

The art of infographics is a kind of visual rhetoric. It is an art of storytelling based on data. The data represented in the picture above (generated using a Raw open app.)  tells two contrasting possible  stories about the San-Antonio series, based on the place where the action is set. One is a story of international expansion and delocalisation of the plot, of multiple contacts with the world. It indicates  a series of adventures scattered  outside from France. The other, on the contrary, emphasizes the centrality of France, as  the radiant matrix of the diegesis. Around it, the other countries travelled by the characters are side scenes and side kicks, satellites, distant archipelagos.

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San-Antonio’s International Publishers

San-Antonio Polka. Liban

San-Antonio, San-Antonio Polka, Beirut, Sawt al nas, 1994 (Translation Bassam Hajjar)

Ahead of the San-Antonio International Conference organised by the ICRH at Queen’s University, Belfast due to take place on the 15th and 16th of May (see CFP),  here is a list of 78 international publishers, which published translations of books by Frédéric Dard. This result reflects research which is still in progress. A number of books which were identified but not yet located were not considered here. Hence, the actual figures are in many cases higher than the numbers quoted here.  If you are aware of any publisher or publication not mentioned here, please let us know about them. In the table below, publishers are ranked by  the number of  books signed San-Antonio /Frédéric Dard they published and which we were able to trace.

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American Blurbs

US4Knights of arabia

Knights Of Arabia (Bérurier au sérail), Paperback Library, New York, 1970 (Collection Didier Poiret)

The San-Antonio series published in the early 1970’s by the Paperback Library (New York) carried a blurb text on their front page. Still, the backpage was the site of promotional superlatives too. The emphasis was put here more explicitly  on sales figures than on storytelling or other literary merits. The rhetorical force  of 24 Million Copies sold in France always seem to trump the hackneyed praise  reproduced there, however rich in colourfoul adjectives and metaphors.

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“The anti-establisment Hero who’s taking the States by Storm”

USThe hatchet man

The Hatchet Man (Vas-y Béru) Paperback Library (New York), 1970

The American publication of San-Antonio novels in the early 1970’s  consists in mere reprints, with  different covers (but the same illustration)  of the translations published in England in the late 1960’s.   Most of the translations are from  Cyril Buhler. What is original on these “First American Publications” is the blurb, printed on the cover. Here, this most hyperbolic of commercial communications takes place, not only on the back page as is traditional, but on the front page already, for maximum attention.

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A Homage to Georges Wolinski

Cabu, Charb, Honoré, Tignous and  Wolinski were killed today in Paris, together with 7 other victims. It is as if somebody wanted to tear off pages after pages of the history of illustrated press.  Stating that their names are legendary does not  begin to describe how important and influential they were for generations of readers and illustrators in France. They were cartoonists, satirists,  artists and journalists.  Cabu, and Wolinski  have been with many of us ever since we could read. They used to make us laugh loud. This is the first time they make us sad. The BNF, the French National Libray, had devoted an important exhibition, in 2012, to a retrospective of Wolinksi’s rich and very diverse career. His association with Crime Fiction  manifested itself in his illustrations for the book covers of the San-Antonio Series in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Each of these books sold at the time 600 000 copies.Wolinski’s iconic drawings were recognised by millions. Readers and admirers  of his dozens of albums and collaborations to some 40 newspapers are in shock and disbelief.

  Wolinski tarte Wolinski, Valsez Wolinski Wolinskiabdr Wolinskicavale WolinskiCoc

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A Phantom Library

British paperback publisher Sphere Books, founded  in London in 1961 ambitiously undertook in 1968 the publication of the San-Antonio series. By that time, 70 novels pertaining to this Series had already been published in their original French.  Their titles are listed, together with an English translation in the frontmatter pages of the Sphere books. The reader’s curiosity was triggered, but never satisfied.   Only a few of the corresponding texts were to be translated.  Titles such as San-Antonio in the groove or Action all the way and Swim or sink, San-Antonio never were. Sphere only published seven San-Antonio, and gave up on the project by the end of 1969. What remains are titles without books, a library left incomplete. A vacant lot of titles, a literary ghost estate.

aphoto (1) Continue reading