I Spit On Your Graves

Boris VianAs I was reading Boris Vian’s controversial novel, I Spit On Your Graves (J’irai cracher sur vos tombes), I kept thinking I was reading a long lost James M. Cain novel.

The story is simple involving a black man, Lee, who passes for white; lots of sex and booze; a grudge against the white-man because of a brother who died young; rich, privileged and beautiful young women; and graphic violence. It reads fast and hits hard. Coming directly after the liberation of France, Vian’s novel is a powerful fusion of American noir and French sado-eroticism. As such, it was quite controversial but became a huge commercial success. As you can imagine, the end of Nazi occupation almost deserved a controversial novel, especially one with all that sex and violence.

Boris Vian was a French writer, poet, musician, singer, translator, critic, actor, inventor and engineer. He wrote controversial criminal novels under the pseudonym Vernon Sullivan (a black man) and many other works under his own name. Just a quick look at his bibliography (from Wkipedia) will suggest that Vian was quite the polymath.

Prose

Novels

  • Trouble dans les andains (Turmoil in the Swaths) (1942–43, published posthumously in 1966 by La Jeune Parque)
  • Vercoquin et le plancton (Vercoquin and the Plankton) (1943–45, published 1947 by Éditions Gallimard)
  • L’Écume des jours (Foam of the Days) (1946, published 1947 by Éditions Gallimard; translated variously as Froth on the Daydream, Mood Indigo and Foam of the Daze)
  • L’automne à Pékin (Autumn in Peking) (1946, published 1947 by Éditions du Scorpion, revised version published in 1956; Autumn in Peking)
  • L’Herbe rouge (The Red Grass) (1948–49, published 1950 by Éditions Toutain)
  • L’Arrache-coeur (Heartsnatcher) (1947–1951, published 1953 by Éditions Vrille; Heartsnatcher)

Vernon Sullivan novels

  • J’irai cracher sur vos tombes (I Spit on Your Graves) (Éditions du Scorpion, 1946)
  • Les morts ont tous la même peau (The Dead All Have the Same Skin) (Éditions du Scorpion, 1947)
  • Et on tuera tous les affreux (To Hell With the Ugly) (Éditions du Scorpion, 1948)
  • Elles se rendent pas compte (They Do Not Realize) (1948–50, published 1950 by Éditions du Scorpion)

Short story collections

  • Les Fourmis (The Ants) (1944–47, published 1949 by Éditions du Scorpion)
  • Les Lurettes fourrées (Ages Fulfilled) (1948–49, published 1950 by Le Livre de Poche as an addendum to their edition of L’Herbe rouge)
  • Le Ratichon baigneur (Toothy Bather) (1946–52, published posthumously in 1981 by Éditions Bourgois)
  • Le Loup-garou (The Werewolf) (1945–53?, published posthumously in 1970 by Éditions Bourgois)

Dramatic works

  • L’Équarrissage pour tous (Squaring for All), play (1947, published 1950 by Éditions Toutain)
  • Le Dernier des métiers (The Last of the Trades), play (1950, published 1965 by Éditions Pauvert)
  • Tête de Méduse (Medusa’s Head), comedy in one act (1951, published 1971 by U.G.E.)
  • Série Blême (Pallid Series), tragedy in three acts (1952?, published 1971 by U.G.E.)
  • Le Chasseur français (The French Hunter), vaudeville (1955, published 1971 by U.G.E.)
  • Les Bâtisseurs d’Empire (The Empire Builders), (1957, published 1959 by Collège de ‘Pataphysique)
  • Le Goûter des généraux (The Snack of Generals), (1951, published 1962 by Collège de ‘Pataphysique)

Poetry

  • Barnum’s Digest (Barnum’s Digest) (1948, a collection of 10 poems)
  • Cantilènes en gelée (Cantelinas in Jelly) (1949)
  • Je voudrais pas crever (I Would Like Not to Die) (posthumously published in 1962)

Translations

  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler as Le grand sommeil (1948)
  • The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler as La dame du lac (1948)
  • The World of Null-A by A. E. van Vogt, as Le Monde des Å (1958)

Other works

  • Manuel de St-Germain-des-Prés, originally commissioned to be a tourist guide to the St-Germain-des-Prés district (published 1950 by Éditions Toutain)

Boris Vian might be an author you haven’t yet experience. I recommend his works and intend to scout out a few more for my own reading pleasure. Note also that here is a chance to read in the original French … keep those language skills sharp, right?

2 responses

    • Not everything, I imagine, but certainly all the primary texts. I have only read him in English myself. I notice that Wikipedia, which normally makes it clear where titles are also in English, has only included the original French publications. Search Amazon, iBooks, etc. for Boris Vian … that should give you some of what you want.

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