Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
by Louis Guilloux, introduction by Alice Kaplan, translated from the French by Laura Marris
An NYRB Classics OriginalBlood 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 alice kaplan
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
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.
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