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The Fire Within

The Fire Within

by Pierre Drieu la Rochelle, translated from the French by Richard Howard, introduction by Will Self

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Pierre Drieu La Rochelle might be said to be both the Hemingway and the Fitzgerald of twentieth-century French literature, a battle-scarred veteran of the First World War whose work chronicles the trials and tribulations of a lost generation, a man about town, a heartbreaker with a broken heart, a literary stylist whose work is as tough as it is lyrical and polished. Politically compromised as Drieu came to be by his affiliation with the fascist right and collaboration under Nazi occupation—Drieu committed suicide at the end of the war—his novels remain vivid reflections of a broken spiritual and political world of the interwar years and as works of art, and to this day they are widely read and greatly admired in France.

The Fire Within, which has been successfully adapted to the screen by Louis Malle and more recently Joachim Trier, is the lacerating tale of Alain Leroy, a war veteran and beautiful young man of whom the world is expected but who has taken refuge from the world in drugs. After being institutionalized, Alain emerges to try to put his life together again, but in spite of the attentions of friends and lovers, he struggles to find his way.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681376219
Pages: 144
Publication Date:


Richard Howard’s eloquent 1965 translation captures every exquisite twist...La Rochelle’s courageous plunge into the void reveals itself to be, as Will Self suggests in his incisive introduction, an existential novel rivaling those of Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and William S. Burroughs.
—David Wright, Library Journal

The Fire Within is Drieu's best book, if you ask me. In it he's working quickly. He's in a hurry. Death's breathing down his neck and over the pages of his novel, briskly sweeping away all digression.
—Bernard Frank

[Drieu] is one of those immortal figures, frequent in the history of letters, whose faint shade—growing more and more substantial by the year—tramples the dust and ashes of lives we used to think of as successful.
—François Mauriac

I, for my part, situate myself with Céline and Montherlant and Malraux.
—Pierre Drieu La Rochelle

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