Blood Dark by Louis Guilloux / ISBN 9781681371450 / 544-page paperback from New York Review of Books Classics
Used copy, light shelfwear only.
“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
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.
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.