Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Nihilism and Willeford

From: Allan Guthrie (
Date: 16 Sep 2009

  • Next message: davezeltserman: "RARA-AVIS: Re: Nihilism and Willeford"

    Jim, I don't see how you can claim that Duhamel's definition of noir is the correct one, and then completely ignore it. Here's a translation (thanks to Karin Montin) of Duhamel's Serie Noire manifesto, resurrected from the rara-avis archives:

    "Let unwary readers be warned: books in the Serie Noire cannot safely be placed in just any hands. Those who like Sherlock Holmes-type puzzles won't find what they're looking for. Neither will systematic optimists. The immorality generally accepted in this type of work solely to serve as a foil for conventional morality is just as much at home there as fine feelings, even just plain amorality. The spirit of such books is rarely conformist. In them there are police more corrupt than the criminals they're chasing. The nice detective doesn't always solve the mystery. Sometimes there is no mystery. And sometimes there isn't even a detective. And so? So what remains is action, torment and violence, in all its forms, especially the most shameful--from beatings to massacres. As in good films, moods are expressed through actions, and readers who are fond of introspective literature will have to do the reverse gymnastics. There is also love--preferably bestial--disorderly passion, pitiless hate. In short, our goal is quite simple: to keep you from sleeping."

    The focus would appear to be on non-conformity, corruption, immorality, confounding expectations, action, torment ('angoisse': also translates as anxiety, as far as I can tell), violence, lack of introspection, extreme and destructive emotions. The words 'dark' and 'sinister' aren't even mentioned.


    ----- Original Message ----- From: "JIM DOHERTY" <>

    > Noir, as the term is popularly used, relates to a novel (film, etc.) that
    > has a dark and sinister atmosphere. Atmosphere has everything to do with
    > it.

    Look at the wide array of novels published under the Serie Noire line. Look at the vast array of films designated as noir. Are the editors (who, after all, COINED the term) using it incorrectly? Are the huge number of people using the word noir in that sense somehow outside of the mainstream?

    > Marcel Duhamel started putting the plans for Gallimard's new mystery line
    > featuring primarily translations of American crime novels, SERIE NOIRE, in
    > motion as early as 1944. The first book published under the SERIE NOIRE
    > banner came out in, IIRC, September of 1945.

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