Blood Dark (Paperback)

By Louis Guilloux, Laura Marris (Translated by), Alice Kaplan (Introduction by)

NYRB Classics, 9781681371450, 544pp.

Publication Date: October 17, 2017

List Price: 18.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.

Description

Set during World War I, this monumental philosophical novel about human despair inspired Albert Camus' own writing and prefigured the greater existential movement.

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 Critique of Pure Reason—despises his colleagues, despairs of his charges, and is at odds with his family. The year is 1917, and the slaughter of the First World War goes on and on, with French soldiers not only dying in droves but also beginning to rise up in protest. Still haunted by the memory of the wife who left him long ago, Cripure turns his fury and scathing wit on everyone around him. Before he knows it, a trivial dispute with a complacently patriotic colleague has embroiled him in a duel.


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 rêves (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.


Praise For Blood Dark

"Laura Marris’s disarmingly colloquial translation—the first in English since 1936, when the book was titled Bitter Victory—makes accessible a novel that chronicles, as though in real time, the transformations the catastrophe of World War I wrought on European civilization. It’s a masterwork that in France is spoken of in the same breath as Céline’s Journey to the End of the Night and Sartre’s Nausea….there is a revelatory sense reading Guilloux’s novel that one has found a key text linking the sparkling contempt of Flaubert to the tender resignation of Camus.” —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal


"Guilloux’s work deserves to be better known in the anglophone world; it’s good news that this major novel has resurfaced in Laura Marris’s attentive and accomplished translation." —Adrian Tahourdin, Times Literary Supplement

“Considered a masterpiece by Gide, Malraux, Camus, and Pasternak, Guilloux’s 1935 Blood Dark remains the least known in English of France’s twentieth-century blockbuster novels. Guilloux breaks with the tidiness of traditional French fiction to provide a hallucinatory—and tragicomic—vision of a single day in the life (and death) of a small port town in Brittany during the mutinous and revolutionary year of 1917. At the heart of this apocalyptic satire lies the outsize figure of Cripure, a nihilistic highschool teacher of philosophy, a monstrous Ahab of the intellect suicidally in quest of his Nietzschean white whale. Guilloux’s Le Sang noir here emerges afresh—and urgent—in this new translation by Laura Marris.” —Richard Sieburth

“We come upon Blood Dark with something of a shock. For here is a novel projected in the grand style of the nineteenth century, a mountain of a novel, sprawling . . . out of which there emerges a great tragic figure.” —Harold Strauss, The New York Times