Re: RARA-AVIS: What Hard-Boiled Is

From: ejmd (
Date: 22 Apr 2000

Alfredo <> writ:

> When Gallimard was founded, around 1949, one of it´s first collections was
> hard boiled, but they preferred to *translate* the genre´s name. Jacques
> Prevert was the one who created the *noir* name.

The term _film noir_ was coined by French film critic Nino Frank, in 'A New Kind of Detective Story', _L'ɣrᮠFran硩s_ (August 1946).

An English translation of Frank's article can be found in William Luhr, ed., _The Maltese Falcon: John Huston, director_ (Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, NJ, 1995).



Here's another extract from that Woolrich article:

Woolrich's 'black series' and La S鲩e Noir

One of the key terms used to describe certain types of crime fiction, and briefly discussed above, is the word 'noir', the French for
'black'---as in black mood, dark atmosphere; dark and doom-laden. The reason the French term 'noir' is used to describe this style is probably because of the series of crime books published in France from the mid-1940s under the series title S鲩e Noir, or 'Black Series'.

The French had been deprived of access to American popular culture during the Second World War. Immediately after the war however, in 1945, French publisher Gallimard established the S鲩e Noir imprint, edited by Marcel Duhamel (who had, at one time, been Ernest Hemingway's secretary). Among the crime titles published under the S鲩e Noir imprint were the works of a number of American 'pulp' writers, including the 'second-wave' noir writers, David Goodis, Jim Thompson and Cornell Woolrich.

This French series is important to crime writing because the critical attention its titles received was quite different from the reception the same works enjoyed in America. While in their native America the works of these 'noir writers' were afforded the status of cultural ephemera---merely cheap, disposable, Lion and Gold Medal paperbacks, packaged in lurid-covers to attract readers to their hopefully equally lurid contents---for French literary critics they were masterful expressions of existential angst. Lee Server notes, for example, that Horace McCoy's They Shoot Horses, Don't They? was 'acclaimed by Sartre and Gide' yet remained virtually unknown in America; while Albert Camus acknowledged the influence of James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice on his own L'Etranger (The Stranger).

The same American titles that were being translated into French for publication under the S鲩e Noir imprint were also providing a body of raw material for the Hollywood film studios. When the American films based on these novels became available in France after the war, the direct connection between the American novels published under the S鲩e Noir imprint and their adaptation for the American cinema---often by European emigre directors---led French cinema critic Nino Frank to coin the term films noirs---literally, 'black films'---in 1946.

Woolrich's biographer, Francis M. Nevins Jr., suggests that the name of Gallimard's S鲩e Noir imprint may have been inspired by Woolrich's own series of 'black' novels.

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