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Le Diable au corps by Raymond Radiguet

Le Diable au corps (original 1923; edition 1923)

by Raymond Radiguet

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603916,217 (3.65)22
Title:Le Diable au corps
Authors:Raymond Radiguet
Info:Grasset (2003)
Collections:Your library
Tags:novela corta, literatura francesa, amor imposible

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The Devil in the Flesh by Raymond Radiguet (1923)



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English (6)  French (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (9)
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In 1914, a boy aged sixteen falls in love with a young woman whose husband is fighting in World War I. Prompt result of the affair: A baby. Things are put in order by telling the soldier that he is the father. Perhaps autobiographic to Radiguet who in his short life (he died at the age of twenty) had relations both with men and women. As to literary quality, he was compared with Arthur Rimbaud. Although his two short novels are masterpieces, they reflect an easily understandable world against Rimbaud’s immeasurable universe.
  hbergander | Feb 19, 2014 |
“It did not matter to me whether she offered her lips willingly or not.” (92)

The story of [Le Diable au corps] is simple: When a young man leaves for certain death at the front lines in World War I, he unknowingly leaves his young bride behind to the machinations and lust of an arrogant and depraved teenager. The unnamed protagonist, F., in some translations, is a conceited, histrionic, narcissistic, pretentious, solipsistic, and spoiled teenager born to a loving family in the suburbs of Paris.

Like many teenagers, F. has a deep and profound need to prove himself superior and more mature than grown-ups, scores of whom end up dead on the battlefield whilst they prove their patriotism and manhood. Rather than die, F. has chosen life. Not only that, he has chosen to live—to prove his very existence during a time of crisis and war—in a way that he is most psychologically predisposed to: the seduction of and sexual liaisons with a woman married to a serviceman, the fathering of illegitimate children, and the remorseless drugging and raping of another woman. Indeed, much of the latter quarter of the novel features ruminations by the protagonist about raising a child with a military widow and proving himself better than all other men. So great are the heights of F's egocentrism, so lost and gone is his moral compass that even on the very last page he, still conceited and histrionic, cannot envisage his own defeat.

[Le Diable au corps] was more than a semi-autobiography—if it was autobiographical at all, it is a sensationalist social critique. Radiguet sought to undermine the heroic dogma of the war rooted in the defence of France and the prevention of another repeat of the Franco-Prussian War through shock and awe. He threatened both the morals of the war and the masculinity of front line soldiers in the trenches by going after their wives at home. The Alpha and Beta males may all die at Verdun for “liberté, égalité, fraternité,” Radiguet implied, but the Gamma males and the cockroaches will have their day if only for a year.

So, was the war worth it at all? Did the soldiers fight in vain against the senseless slaughter at the frontlines and the moral decadence at home brought upon by modernity? I believe that Radiguet had such ideas in mind when he wrote this short novel, however, his miscalculated mixture of sensationalist writing with social critique ultimately failed him.

Radiguet is today largely remembered as a scandalous, bold but decadent literary prodigy and [Le Diable au corps] is likewise remembered as an equally scandalous and immoral autobiography. Radiguet is recognized as an artist, but not as a moralist or a social commentator. The aspects of social critique within his writing are muted because of his writing style along with the way he and his publishers advertised him in public. The former because the details in the story seemed true enough for readers to be persuaded that it had to have happened and the latter gave enough substance to support those suspicions. Subsequent writers would prove to be more capable at balancing both the style and meaning of their teenage stories: Yukio Mishima’s [Confessions of a Mask] and J. D. Salinger’s [The Catcher in the Rye]. Nevertheless, Radiguet, in [Le Diable au corps], proved himself to be adept with characterization, description, but above all a master of literary moral decadence.

And because it was a short and somwhat interesting read:

Two Thumbs Up!
1 vote GYKM | Jan 30, 2013 |
Those who study literary theory view World War I as a key element in the development of modernist literature. And while French author Raymond Radiguet published only one novel before his death at age 20, that work, The Devil in the Flesh, is a prime piece of evidence for this viewpoint.

It's not surprising that Radiguet's book caused a stir when it was published in 1923. Set in the Paris suburbs during the last year of World War I, The Devil in the Flesh tells the story of a 16-year-old boy, the narrator, who has an affair with and impregnates the 18-year-old wife of a French soldier while the soldier is at the front. Although the age of consent in France at the time was 13, the thought of a teen's betrayal of a fighting man would still chafe. What perhaps bolstered the distress of readers is the knowledge there were more than a few wives who cheated on their soldier husbands and gave birth to illegitimate children. In fact, the book is semi-autobiographical. Radiguet supposedly started writing it between the ages of 16 and 18 after having had an affair with the wife of an soldier at age 14.

Yet the sordid touch added by the narrator's age and the betrayal of a soldier are not the only elements that can disturb. The narrator (unnamed in many translations but called Francois here in Christopher Moncrieff's translation) observes in the first paragraph, "People who reproach me should try and imagine what the War was for so many young boys -- a four-year-long holiday." Certainly, those who experienced the War -- capital W -- or its ramifications didn't see something that took the lives of nearly 1.4 million French soldiers as a holiday. Add to this that Francois comes off as little more than an amoral narcissist and there's plenty to outrage.

At the outset of The Devil in the Flesh, Francois is what readers today would essentially classify as a teenager with the attitude of that age. His sexual desires and drives, although not specifically denominated as such early in the book, have become far more common among literary characters over the decades. When he first meets 18-year-old Marthe Lascombe, the daughter of a family friend, her fiancé is on the front lines. Francois fosters his relationship with her by helping her pick out items for her future household. It is only after her marriage, though, that he eventually manipulates her into a sexual relationship. Yet Francois eventually falls deeply in love with Marthe, at least insofar as he can conceive of the emotion

Throughout the book, the dialog and perspective are internal. Francois is focused on his feelings and his emotions. Only occasionally does he show care or concern for Marthe and even then it tends to be short-lived. Yet there is no doubt he has some internal conflicts and Francois often seems a blend of naiveté and hedonism. He wants to flaunt society's rules but often oscillates between the effort to shock and an effort to hide the relationship. He repeatedly praises love yet even then does so in a tone mental heals professionals would call affectless. He is not unaware of a certain inherent level of immaturity while engaging in an adult game. "We were like children standing on a chair, proud of being taller than the grown-ups," he says. "Circumstances put us in this lofty position, but we were unable to live up to it."

As Radiguet's sparse, direct prose leads the work to its tragic conclusion, it is easy to see why The Devil in the Flesh is considered emblematic of early 20th Century modernism. The book does not carry the same shock value as it did on its initial release. Yet that does not prevent it from being a precursor to several themes that would be explored in coming decades or change the fact many of those same themes and issues remain relevant today.

(Originally posted at A Progressive on the Prairie.)
  PrairieProgressive | Apr 1, 2012 |
Raymond Radiguet tells, in first person, the story of a remarkably independent and self-assured teenage boy who takes a young woman as his lover. The story takes place in France during the First World War. When the unnamed narrator meets Marthe, she is engaged to a soldier in the French army. The marriage proceeds, but the war keeps the husband in the front lines and and affords the two lovers plenty of time to consummate their affair, which they scarcely bother to conceal.

There is much insight in this novel into the forms and attitudes of lovers. The narrator's voice is coldly analytical, surprisingly so considering that Radiguet was writing about his own recent past while still in his teens. Aside from being a romance, however, the novel is also a portrait of domination and manipulation in a relationship. From the moment they meet, the narrator begins directing Marthe's life--changing her hair, her wardrobe, dictating her letters to her husband, and even telling her what furniture to buy. This is a remarkable study in the behavioral mechanics behind a passionate relationship. ( )
2 vote StevenTX | Jan 17, 2011 |
The devil in the flesh created quite a bit of a scandal when it was published, semi-autobiographical, the author wrote it from the age of sixteen to eighteen, after his own affair with a married woman. And that, my dears, is the central theme to this book. In fact, it is the end all and the be all of everything in this book. Our 15/16 year old narrator’s affair with a married woman. And I found that incredibly off-putting.

Full review: http://www.susanhatedliterature.net/2010/08/20/the-devil-in-the-flesh/ ( )
  Fence | Aug 20, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Radiguet, Raymondprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anhava, HelenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moncrieff, ChristopherTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I am about to incur a great many reproaches.
I am going to bring a great deal of criticism on myself. (Christopher Moncrieff's translation, 2010).
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0714534021, Paperback)

The Devil in the Flesh, one of the finest, most delicate love stories ever written, is set in Paris during the last year of the First World War. The narrator, a boy of 16, tells of his love affair with Martha Lacombe, a young woman whose soldier husband is away at the front. With an accuracy of insight that is almost ruthless, he describes his conflicting emotions—the pride of an adolescent on the verge of manhood and the pain of a child thrust too fast into maturity.

The liaison soon becomes a scandal, and their friends, horrified and incredulous, refuse to accept what is happening—even when the affair reaches its tragic climax.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:39 -0400)

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