Blood Dark (Paperback)
New York Review of Books, 9781681371450, 544pp.
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Set during World War I, this monumental philosophical novel about human despair inspired Albert Camus' own writing and prefigured the greater existential movement. Louis Guilloux's novel Blood Dark tells the story of a brilliant philosopher trapped in a provincial town and of his spiraling descent into self-destruction. Cripure, as his students call him, the name a mocking contraction of The Critique of Pure Reason, despises his colleagues, despairs of his charges, and is at odds with his family. The year is 1917, and the First World War continues its relentless course, with French soldiers not only dying by the tens of thousands but also beginning to desert in protest. Cripure, having seen student after student go to his death, finds himself literally up in arms at the complacent patriotism of his fellow teachers as he challenges one of them to a duel. Unfolding over the course of a single day, Blood Dark describes how Cripure manages to embroil himself in this ridiculous "affair of honor." Guilloux's novel, an important inspiration to the young Albert Camus, is an unflinching attack on the hypocritical pieties of a middle-class society and a tragic portrait of a man at war with the world and himself.
About the Author
Louis Guilloux (1899-1980) was born in Brittany, where he would spend most of his life. His father was a shoemaker and a socialist. At the local high school, he was taught by the controversial philosopher Georges Palante, who would serve as inspiration for the character of Cripure in Blood Dark. Guilloux worked briefly as a journalist in Paris, but soon began writing short stories for newspapers and magazines, and then published his debut novel, La Maison du peuple, in 1927. During World War II, his house was a meeting place for the French Resistance; on one occasion it was searched by the Vichy police and Guilloux was taken in for questioning. Following the war, he was an interpreter at American military tribunals in Brittany, and the incidents of racial injustice that he witnessed in the American army would form the basis of his 1976 book OK, Joe. In addition to his many novels--including Le Pain des reves (1942) and Jeu de patience (1949)--Guilloux also translated the work of Claude McKay, John Steinbeck, and several of C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower stories. Laura Marris's recent translations include Christophe Boltanski's The Safe House and, with Rosmarie Waldrop, Paol Keineg's Triste Tristan and Other Poems. Her work has appeared in The Cortland Review, Asymptote, The Brooklyn Rail, and elsewhere. Alice Kaplan is the John M. Musser Professor of French at Yale University. She is the author of Looking for "The Stranger" Albert Camus and the Life of a Literary Classic, The Collaborator, Dreaming in French, and French Lessons: A Memoir. Kaplan's book The Interpreter explores Guilloux's experience as an interpreter for the U.S. Army courts-martial in Brittany in the summer of 1944. She is also the translator of Guilloux's novella OK, Joe, which inspired her research for The Interpreter.