Saturday, February 13, 2016

Emmanuel Bove in French and English

I can never tell exactly why certain authors grab a hold of my attention.  Lately I have gotten quite interested in Emmanuel Bove.  He was actually quite a prolific writer, particularly given the challenging circumstances (he fled Occupied France for Algeria in 1942 but returned in 1944 after the Germans were repelled from France).  He died in Paris in 1945.  My general impression is that he, like Joseph Roth, was somewhat dissolute and would never have lived to a ripe old age, but that the stresses of war as well as the difficult economic times between the wars accelerated his decline.  There is a good overview of his career here (this is also the introduction to the recent NYRB volume, Henri Duchemin and His Shadows).

Perhaps what fascinates me the most is that he was somewhat of a literary darling, but he became fairly obscure by the 1960s.  Bove is slowly being rediscovered, but only a small number of his books are available in English.  I personally consider him the "real deal," since he lived through all the troubles that Patrick Modiano obsessively relates second-hand.  He is known for a somewhat flat, direct style, and he was generally preoccupied with quasi-indigent men who had aspirations to move out of the working class.  I don't know if others see it, but his middle style reminds me of Sartre's existential fiction.  Bove's last three completed novels have the additional frisson that comes from refugees unsure of whom they can trust during war time.  It is perhaps not surprising that these three are all available in English translation (Quicksand, Night Departure and No Place), though generally Le Piège (Quicksand) is considered the best of the three.

It appears that three novels from the 1930s were published posthumously, and I have kept them a bit separate from the others in the bibliography below.  Curiously, two of them have been translated into English.  Again, what makes Bove a bit different from other French authors of his stature is that several of his major works have not been translated into English, including La Coalition, Coeurs et Visages and arguably Le Pressentiment.  I've started collecting a few of his books in French and will see how far I can get with them.  It does help that he doesn't have a very elaborate style.

Anyway, there is an incredibly detailed bibliography here, which seems to have everything covered aside from two relatively recent English translations.  To avoid confusion, I will note if there is an English translation by an "E," so O or R in the first list will refer only to the French version of Bove's works, whereas a note in the second list will refer to the English version.

There is no question that tracking down Bove's stories will be the hardest (if I get completely obsessed and try to read them all).  It is actually fairly difficult to find out much information about the French volumes republished recently.  My understanding is that it is only the 1939 edition of La Dernière Nuit that contains the extra stories and that the more recent printing omits them.  (If I understand this correctly, La Dernière Nuit is the same work as Un suicide, but that Histoire d'un suicide is a second work (sometimes titled La Coalition).) However, it appears that the recent printing of Monsieur Thorpe contains the stories that were included with La Dernière Nuit, as well as Petits Contes, so I may try to pick that up.

It definitely seems more difficult (and expensive) to do inter-library loan in Toronto, though a lot of this has to do with the increased postage costs across the border.  I currently gave up on getting the recent translation of A Raskolnikoff and will just read (or attempt to read) the French version at Robarts.  I also decided to order a copy of A Man Who Knows and will donate that to Robarts at some point in the late summer or fall.  I'm waiting to see if SUNY-Buffalo will send over their version of The Stepson or if they charge an arm and a leg for it, in which case I'll eventually order it myself.*  If that does come through, however, it seems that they have the 1939 version of La Dernière Nuit, and I'd see if that can be requested.  Otherwise, I'll just buy the newer edition of Monsieur Thorpe.  Interestingly, at least a few of these titles are now available on the Kindle, so I'll probably try that for one or two titles.

It is curious that Flammarion published a book called Romans in 1999, which covered 9 of Bove's major works (some technically stories and not novels), comprising just under half of his fiction.  It would be ideal if at some point they put out Romans 2 to cover the rest, though I am certainly not holding my breath.  Anyway, just writing things out this way helps relieve the pressure, and after reading a few more of his novels in translation and attempting one or two in the original, I can probably let go of this particular obsession.  (As it happens, I have been falling out of step with Bove and his fairly unpleasant narrators, and I didn't enjoy A Singular Man or A Man Who Knows at all, so I think I have hit the end of the road with Bove.)

Bove in French:
EO     Mes amis, roman, 1924.
EO     Armand, roman,1927.
O     Bécon-les-Bruyères, nouvelle, 1927.
O     Un soir chez Blutel, roman, 1927.
UT.     Un père et sa fille, nouvelle, 1928.
O     La Coalition, roman, 1928.
     La Mort de Dinah, roman, 1928.
O     Coeurs et Visages, roman, 1928.
EO     Henri Duchemin et ses ombres, 1928 (comprend: "le Crime d'une nuit", "Un autre ami", "Visite d'un soir", "Ce que j'ai vu", "l'Histoire d'un fou", "le Retour de l'enfant", "Est-ce un mensonge?").
O     L'Amour de Pierre Neuhart, roman, 1928.
UT.     Une Fugue, nouvelle, 1929.
UT     Petits Contes, 1929 (comprend: "l'Enfant surpris", "Une journée à Chantilly", "Conversation", "le Trac", "les Pâques de Konazi").
UT     Monsieur Thorpe, nouvelle, 1929.
     Une illusion, nouvelle, 1929.
     Un malentendu, nouvelle, 1930.
EO     Journal écrit en hiver, roman, 1931.
EUT.     Un Raskolnikoff, nouvelle, 1932.
     Un célibataire, roman, 1932.
     La Toque de Breitschwanz, roman policier (sous le pseudonyme de Pierre Dugast), 1933.
     Le Meurtre de Suzy Pommier, roman policier, 1933.
E     Le Beau-Fils, roman, 1934.
     Histoire d'un suicide (la Coalition), roman, 1934.
O     Le Pressentiment, roman, 1935.
     L'Impossible Amour, roman, 1935.
     Adieu Fombonne, roman, 1937.
     La Dernière Nuit (comprend: la Dernière Nuit (autre titre d'Un suicide) et les nouvelles intitulées: "une illusion", "Rencontre", "le Retour", "la Garantie", "le Secret", "Elle est morte"), Gallimard, 1939.
EO     Le Piège, roman, 1945.
     Une Offense, nouvelle, 1945.
EUT     Départ dans la nuit, roman, 1945.
EUT     Non-Lieu, roman, 1946 (édition posthume).
Other posthumous works
EUT     Un homme qui savait, roman, 1986.
EUT     Mémoires d'un homme singulier, roman, 1987.
     Un caractère de femme, roman, 1999.

Bove in English:
R    My Friends (Mes amis)
R    Armand
UT   A Winter's Journal (Journal écrit en hiver)
O   The Stepson (Le Beau-Fils)
O   Quicksand (Le Piège)
O   Night Departure; and No Place (Départ dans la nuit/Non-Lieu)
R   A Singular Man (Mémoires d'un homme singulier)
R   A Man Who Knows (Un homme qui savait) (sadly not good at all)
      A Raskolnikoff
R   Henri Duchemin and His Shadows (Henri Duchemin et ses ombres)

* Just after I finished typing this, I found that there was an inexpensive copy of The Stepson from Betterworld Book (with only moderately expensive shipping to Canada).  So I jumped on that, and after I read it, I will donate it to Robarts.  I'll still leave the ILL request in place, however, just to see what happens.

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