Incroyable! It is time for another look inside the fantastique
French aisle at Powell's City of Books. It's only been a month since the last posting, but I could not wait another day to show you the truly amazing out-of-print treasures I have discovered. Les voila!
First of all, you must feast les yeux on this truly lovely edition of La Main Enchante?e (The Magic Hand) by Ge?rard de Nerval, one of France's most romantic poets and revered essayists. This story shows de Nerval's profoundly sensitive writing style, and this particular edition is absolutely lovely! Published in 1945, it is unbound (en planches) and held in a cardboard case. The papers are in fantastic condition, incredibly thick and soft and clean, although the cardboard case is a bit shabby. The book is beautifully illustrated by black and white original lithographs by Camille Berg. There are brilliantly illuminated letters adorning the title pages and at the beginning of each chapter. It is number 63 of a limited edition of 340. A side-note about the author: he was known to keep a lobster as a pet, and would take it for walks in the gardens of the Palais Royale, on a blue silk ribbon. Superbe!
Next I have this wonderful little paperback of Les Hauts de Hurle Vent (Wuthering Heights) by Emily Brontë. We all know the torrid love story of Cathy and her brooding Heathcliff, but have we ever read such a cool edition as this? A pocket-sized late mass market paperback in good condition with a wonderful cover featuring a goofy, Scooby-doo style font. Tre`s cool!
Now let's take a look at this great version of Norman Mailer's Prisonnier Du Sexe (The Prisoner of Sex). This cover blows my mind. It looks like Norman Mailer's mind is blown as well, all entangled with hipster gals and political signage. I love this graphic! This classic work by Mailer about his controversial views of women's liberation was published by Robert Laffont in 1971.
I found a great copy of Rue du Prole´taire Rouge (The Street of the Red Proletariat) by Nina and Jean Kehayan. This is an account of two young French communists who lived in Russia and wrote about Russian daily life at the time. Published in 1978 by France Loisirs, this edition is a slightly worn hardback with a great cover photo. A slice of life from 40 years ago, in Russia, en français! Inte?rressant!
Now, speaking of history and politics, check out Mademoiselle Angela Davis! Elle est fe?roce! This is a great 1981 paperback edition of Femmes, Race et Classe (Women, Race, and Class) that is her critical analysis of feminism from the past and present and how it relates to the struggles of the black woman. A great perspective from an iconic activist.
One more book from the French history section is this treasure, Les Drapeaux de la Garde Nationale de Paris en 1789 (Flags of the National Guard of Paris from 1789) by Gerard Blanckaert. This is a one-of-a-kind find! This is also a loose-leafed book that comes in a cardboard slipcase. The pages are in great shape, very clean, but the most stunning element of the book are the illustrations. Unbelievable! All of the flags from each district, each one more amazing than the last. Les Français are evidently amazing flag designers! The prints within are in brilliant, glossy full-color, illustrated replicas each with ornate symbols and lettering. They are absolutely special and inspiring. For the French history buff this book would be a fantastic gift.
Moving on to our wonderful "miscellaneous non-fiction" section, I found this interesting book Neige et Roc (Snow and Stone) By Gaston Re´buffat. This is a charming book about mountain climbing in the French Alps, circa 1959. There are no fancy carabineers, gortex jackets or aluminum crampons here, this is the old-school method, with wool sweaters, knickers, and hemp rope. There is a chapter on knot-tying that gives me vertigo just imagining how important those knots might be. Another fabulous gift for the modern mountain enthusiast, this shows you how the real men used to do it.
Now, from our French art section I bring you this darling little hardback, En Flagrant De´lire by John Lennon. This is a collection of Lennon's sweet and quirky stories and illustrations.
Published in 1964 by Simon and Schuster, here is one such quirky poem within:
"Je suis un pauv pauv mec
Je suis un pauv pauv mec
Je suis un pauv pauv mec
Je suis un pauv pauv mec
Mite de part en part
Et ne de parents tard
Bouffe jusqu'aux orteils
Ronge jusqu'aux oreils
C'est pas possible a croir
Je suis je suis je
Tellement tellement ti
Excusez-moi je prefere m'en aller."
Now we switch to some wonderful little gems from our French genre section. First, look out for La Nymphe de Montmartre. She is trouble! Barbara Cartland has outdone herself with this little paperback about pauvre Oona Thoreau who has lost her father and is destitute in the streets of Montmartre, Paris. Whatever will she do? It seems her winsome beauty help her, or will it just lead her farther down the dark path?
In science fiction, I found this French edition of none other than the classic futuristic social commentary by Anthony Burgess, L'Orange Mecanique (A Clockwork Orange, or The Mechanical Orange, as I prefer to say it).
This is a book that will teach you some very strange vocabulary! Even reading this book in English, I have to constantly refer to the glossary in the back to translate Burgess's futuristic "ultra-violent" language. In French you will read such words as these (and hopefully be able to use them sometime in regular conversation):
"La nuit e´tais a nous, moi et mes drougs et le reste des nadsats, pendant que les viokchos bourgeois restaient planque´s chez eux a gobeloteur leur Mondovision gloupide…"
("The night was ours, mine and my droogs and the rest of the nadsats, while the bourgeois viokchos sat at home gobelating at their gloupide Mondovisions"... or something like that.)
It's a fascinating language all its own. The title comes from an old Cockney expression, "As queer as a Clockwork Orange," which refers to something that looks normal on the surface but is twisted within. Ve´ritablement!
Here is another great gift idea, this time for the golf enthusiast. Agatha Christie's Le Crime du Golf (The Crime of Golf). In my opinion, golf is a crime, it's so dull, but I think there's more going on here, judging by the bloody dagger next to the golf tees.
My final thriller selection is the classic Shining — l'Enfant Lumie`re (Shining — The Shining Child) by Stephen King. I've never heard it called that before, but it adds to the creepy factor of the cover illustration. This is the story of Danny, "l'enfant medium," who lives with his mother and father for the winter at the evil Overlook Hotel. Read what happens when a family of 3 is isolated for months in a blizzard, and find out what's in the hotel room nume´ro 237.
Finally, I have three children's books for you to enjoy. First, two books from the "Rouge et Or Souveraine" series, E´glantine et L'Aventure (Eglantine and the Adventure) by Rene´e Aurembou from 1960 and Puck Continue (Puck Continues) by Lisbeth Werner, published in 1959.
Both books are sweet young readers about the jolly adventures of girlfriends in Paris. Great mid-century illustrations inside and on the covers, these books would look absolutement charmante on your bookshelves!
Finalement, to close, I must show you this very moving tribute from President Charles de Gaulle's to the children of France during World War II. First heard in 1941, "Message de Noel aux Enfants de France" was played over the radio from General de Gaulle to console the French children during the German occupation. For 18 months, German troops took over French streets, shops, villages, and fields, and made the French people feel they were no longer in their own country. De Gaulle tried to comfort the French children, and inspire them to hang on by telling them of the brave French soldiers that would certainly bring victory home one day.
Here is an excerpt from the address:
"Eh bien! Moi, je vais vous faire un promesse, une promesse de Noel. Chers enfants de France, vous recevrez bientot une visite, la visite de la Victoire. Ah, comme elle wera bell, vous verrez!"
—General Charles de Gaulle, 1941
Tres e´mouvante, non? Especially when you think that it took another 4 years for that dreamed-of victory to come. Vivre la France!
Thus ends another installment of Le Blog Français. Merci mille fois for joining me, and please do come down to Powell's City of Books, Red Room, aisles 817-818 to cherchez les bons livres for youself. A biento^t!