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.
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.
San-Antonio, Stone Dead (C’est mort et ça ne sait pas),
Translation Cyril Buhler, Paperback Library, New York, 1970
There is a striking contrast between Georges Simenon’s status as an international bestseller, and his younger contemporary, once friend, and main challenger in the French market, San-Antonio. The latter, with his eponymous character, the Commissaire San-Antonio, an ironic hardboiled counterpart to Simenon’s Maigret actually far surpassed Maigret in terms of sales in French, yet is virtually unknown in the English speaking world. Too much of his idiosyncratic verve seems to get lost in translation. As American Scholar Susan Dorff once put it, in a survey published in the Armchair Detective, San-Antonio, the king of the kiosks in France is also one of her best-kept secrets. With over 100 million San Antonios in circulation and 200 different titles, many of them published, at a point, in 600,000 mass-market paperback, this is a vast, and vastly untranslated continent, which English readers could only view from afar, if at all.
Here is a list of English and US translations, with some images of how the books actually looked like.