Re: RARA-AVIS: Leo Malet

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 01 Aug 2003


Thanks for all of the background on Leo Malet.

I really enjoyed 120 Rue de la Gare. Burma's a very likeable character.
(This is not to say "Dynamite" Burma is not also very tough). Very sure of himself, he gleefully lies to everyone, including his cop friend you acts more like a sidekick, doing Burma's bidding, from getting info to having people followed, all the time kept in the dark until the final
"gather all the suspects together" scene. It was a lot of fun.

This was a Pan Books, UK edition and some of the language was very British. I mean, Burma once calls someone "chap." This got me thinking about translations, especially of a colloquial literature. Do you remain true to the original's language or change it to the slang of the new language? I guess Malet's translator chose the latter.

I'm now reading Jean-Patrick Manchette's The Prone Gunman (thanks to whoever recommended it on the list). This features a very effective clipped, just-the-facts writing style. I never would have questioned the translation if I hadn't just read the Brit translation of Malet. I wonder how true this is to Manchette's style in French. I can see the Hammett in the statement "Manchette was influenced as much by Guy Debord as by Dashiell Hammett," but not the Debord. Of course, the Debord reference is probably more an allusion to Manchette's generation and worldview, than some situationist writing style. As far as that goes, except for the occasional cultural reference, I didn't see much evidence of Malet's surrealist background in his book either.


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