The Devil in the Flesh
by Raymond Radiguet
(Melville House, 2012)
Hailed by Jean Cocteau as a “masterpiece,” and by the Guardian as “Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero, avant la lettre,” this taut tale written by a teenager in the form of a frank “confession” is a gem of early twentieth-century romanticism. Long unavailable in the U.S., it is now presented in a sparkling new translation.
Set in Paris during the First World War, it tells the story of Francois, the 16-year-old narrator, who falls in love with Marthe, an older, married woman whose husband is off fighting at the front. What seems to begin as a charming tale of puppy love quickly darkens, and they launch into a steamy affair. In the tense environment of the wartime city, their love takes on a desperation transcending their youthfulness.
And as the badly-kept secret of their relationship unfolds, scandal descends, leading the story to a final, startling conclusion — and causing the book itself to become a scandal when it was first published in 1923, just before the author’s death at the age of 20.
About the author:
RAYMOND RADIGUET was born in 1903 in Saint-Maur, a small town outside Paris. He was the son of a cartoonist, but little else is known about his childhood. At the age of 16, he dropped out of school to go to Paris after having an affair with the wife of a soldier off fighting in the First World War. At the age of 18, after writing a collection of poems that would only be published posthumously, Les joues en feu, Radiguet moved to a fishing village near Toulon to work on the novel that would become his masterpiece, The Devil in the Flesh, which was based on his high school affair. Radiguet died of typhoid fever at age 20. Composer Francis Poulenc said of his death, “For two days I was unable to do anything, I was so stunned.”
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