RARA-AVIS: Re: Andr須鬩na (was:French noir)

From: Etienne Borgers ( wbac1203@wanadoo.be)
Date: 17 Aug 2002


No the word "polar" has nothing to do with polaroid, and this colloquialism has no precise launching origin; I think it came really from the French readership daily language.

On the contrary, "n鯭polar", appearing later, is sometime credited to Manchette to qualify the new type of novels appearing in France. As you know Manchette was also a reviewer and essayist for mystery novels.

H鬩na -born in 1919- is a kind of problem by the way he handled his professional life. He started indeed writing noir novels in 1949, after experiences in other domains (poetry, literary shorts). He seemed rather gifted but chose the
"express" lane in cheap publications (real 'train station" collections) for fast returns, and of course these publishers far from pushing to obtain something of acceptable quality for large readerships were pushing down any production to formulaic or caricatures of what was expected to please the public. So, except at his beginning as novelist, H鬩na did not produce much noir, and his overnumerous production was after 1952-3 directed to low quality mysteries and worse. I read some novels that were over-melodramatic and really not well written. But mainly, H鬩na was the Faustian victim of his choice to be a "pen slave". For noir, at his best he was something inspired by Simenon ("tough" novels) and Goodis, but not adding much by himself.

My list was orientated to influent and/or important writers, not trying to give an exhaustive list of authors; so I also neglected some other writers that produced some good novels but did not fit in such a selection.

If you like H鬩na noir, you should try to find : LE BON DIEU S'EN FOUT -1951 (*) LES FLICS ONT TOUJOURS RAISON -1949
(*) this one has also a bonus: a foreword in form of very short essay:
"D馥nse du roman noir"- in fact a clever answer to a small book published by Thomas Narcejac (yes, the one from the tandem Boileau-Narcejac) denying any value to the noir novel (title: "La fin d'un bluff"- = an end to a bluff). In his foreword H鬩na indicated very clearly the main and most important differences of noir compared to traditional mysteries.

Note: there was a first attempt to revive the works of H鬩na in 1986, but not very successful. The second one was in 2000/2001 (Polar no 23 being part of it) and did not reach very further than specialist circles.

E.Borgers Hard-boiled Mysteries http://www.geocities.com/Athens/6384 Polar Noir http://www.geocities.com/polarnoir

At 05:36 14-08-02 EDT, you wrote:
>You lulled me from lurkdom long enough to add the name of one of my
>favourites, the great Andre Helena to your list of French writers. He wrote
>over thirty romans noirs from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s, as well as
>novels about WW2, erotic fiction, film scripts, poetry, etc.. He knew and
>admired Malet and Georges Arnaud, and set most of novels in either his
>native Languedoc-Rousillon or Paris. Over the past few years, his books have
>begun to be reprinted in France. I've only read Les Clients du Central-Hotel
>and Les Voyageurs du vendredi, both of which I enjoyed very much. Anyone
>interested in him should check out Dossier: Andre Helena in Polar, no. 23.
>Also, I always thought the term "polar" was coined by Manchette, and is
>for polaroid- i.e., a crime novel that functions as a snapshot of society.
>Woody Haut

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