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Robert Merle (1908–2004)

Author of Malevil

57+ Works 4,015 Members 65 Reviews 10 Favorited

About the Author

Image credit: Robert Merle on June 28, 1962 Won The Prix De La Fraternite For His Book L'Ile


Works by Robert Merle

Malevil (1973) 571 copies
Death Is My Trade (1952) 426 copies
The Day of the Dolphin (1967) 399 copies
Fortune de France (1977) 332 copies
City of Wisdom and Blood (1979) 196 copies
The Island (1962) 193 copies
The Virility Factor (1974) 189 copies
Heretic Dawn (1980) 178 copies
Weekend at Dunkirk (1950) 127 copies
Madrapour (1976) 92 copies
Vittoria (1987) 81 copies
Behind the Glass (1970) 66 copies
Le Propre de l'homme (1989) 34 copies
Moncada (1953) 16 copies
Oscar Wilde (1983) 9 copies
Ahmed Ben Bella (1966) 7 copies
Malevil 1 6 copies
Malevil 2 6 copies
Dernier été à Primerol (2013) 5 copies
Pièces pies et impies... (1996) 3 copies
2. Malevil 1 copy
1. Malevil 1 copy
The Idol (1989) 1 copy

Associated Works


16th century (41) 17th century (16) 1DBF (24) 20h (13) 20th century (15) adventure (21) Already read (13) Belletristik (17) book (20) dystopia (14) ebook (37) fiction (208) France (149) French (118) French author (13) French literature (33) German (15) historical (25) historical fiction (90) historical novel (100) history (87) literature (51) literature cz (20) N1-5 (24) novel (147) paperback (15) post-apocalyptic (30) read (21) Roman (110) Roman 2017 (14) Romans CH (15) science fiction (102) sf (39) SO (20) to-read (79) unread (15) világirodalom (34) war (14) WWII (19) WZ Regal Mitte links Fach 4 (18)

Common Knowledge

Legal name
Merle, Robert Jean Georges
Date of death
Burial location
Cimetière d'Aiguillon, Aiguillon, Departement du Lot-et-Garonne, Aquitaine, France
Country (for map)
Tébessa, Constantine, French Algeria
Place of death
Grosrouvre, Yvelines, France
Cause of death
officially an accident but his son implied his last wife killed him (see book 'Robert Merle, une vie de passion')
Places of residence
Tébessa, Constantine, French Algeria
Grosrouvre, Yvelines, France
Paris, France
Sorbonne, Paris, France
Louis Le-Grand, Paris
English teacher
historical novelist
scholar (show all 7)
Merle, Pierre (son)
Sartre, Jean-Paul (coworker)
Merle, Olivier (son)
French Army (WWII)
Awards and honors
Officier des Palmes académiques
Croix du combattant
Grand prix Jean-Giono (Pour l'ensemble de son œuvre , 2003)
Prix Sola-Cabiati (Pour l'ensemble de son œuvre, 2003)
Campbell Award, Etats-Unis
Short biography
Robert Merle was born in Tébessa, Algeria, then a French colony. After his father, an interpreter, was killed in World War I, his mother moved with him to Paris. There he attended lycée and the Sorbonne, where he earned a doctorate in English literature with a dissertation on Oscar Wilde. He passed the agrégation (civil service exam for teachers) and taught English literature at lycées in Bordeaux, Marseille, and Paris, where he became a friend of Jean-Paul Sartre. In 1939, at the start of World War II, he was conscripted in the French army and worked as an interpreter during the evacuation of British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk. He was captured by the Germans and sent to a POW camp at Dortmund. In 1943, he was repatriated to France. He later used his experiences at Dunkirk in his first novel Week-end à Zuydcoote (Weekend at Zuydcoote, 1949), which was a major success and won the Prix Goncourt. It was adapted into a 1964 film called Weekend at Dunkirk. He went on to write numerous other acclaimed novels including La Mort est mon Métier (Death Is My Trade, 1953), Maleville (1972), and Un Animal doué de raison (A Sentient Animal, 1967), adapted into the 1973 film The Day of the Dolphin. He also wrote a play, Flamineo (1950), based on John Webster's The White Devil; a biography Oscar Wilde (1948); and translations of English works including Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. His series of 13 historical novels known collectively as Fortune de France (1977–2003), set during the religious civil wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, used many of the French speech rhythms and idioms of the period and is considered his masterpiece. The series, which he began at about age 70, made him a household name in France, and led to his being called "the Alexandre Dumas of the 20th century." He married three times, and had six children.



Group Read, September 2018: The Day of the Dolphin in 1001 Books to read before you die (September 2018)
SF Post Apoc. Small Groups Fight with Bows in Name that Book (July 2013)


I just wasn’t a fan of this one. I was always expecting it to get more action packed, and when it did it was over. Also, it was very odd stylistically and very overly verbose for no reason. I ended up skimming a lot more than I was reading. Definitely going back to the used book store.
MrMet | 9 other reviews | Apr 28, 2023 |
I've read some of the 8 other comments, I am sorry that you didn't all appreciate what I think was a brilliant book.

It portrays four dolphins, eight sympathetic humans, around 4 exploitive humans and the rest of the human race at risk of "accidentally strangling the entire human race".

It is a work of science fiction there is no doubt, but it is very relevant today as it proposes another form of AI (Alternative Intelligence).

The dialogues of the humans with the dolphins, first in English then in whistling Dolphinese, expose the fundamental flaws in human intelligence - that being it is driven by self interest, and a massive sense of self-righteousness.

The predominant dialogue style (long, concatenated paragraphs where dialogue, thoughts, mixed speakers, flashback) illustrates the capricious and irrational nature of most of human thought. Even the sympathetic delphinologists display various degrees of personality weaknesses.

In contrast the AI in this book uses concise, to the point sentences - with abundant emotional tagging of the factual content.

I'd recommend you read it - you can understand why humans are still very much at each others throats now as they were 50 years ago.
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Nick-Myra | 9 other reviews | Mar 20, 2023 |
Well, that was a short one. 36 pages in, and I'm out. Why?

The writing.

Let me tell you about the writing...

First, for the initial 4 1/2 pages, the author does not use quotation marks whatsoever, then, about halfway down the fifth page, for no reason, he starts. He then uses them reasonably consistently for 20-ish pages, then drops and then uses them again. So...yeah, it's gonna be like that.

The second is the habit of writing a paragraph full of useless, stream-of-conscious thoughts that not only don't add anything to the plot, but they actually detract from the pacing.

And then there's the run-on sentences.

I'll just give you the first two sentences that open chapter two...that should give you enough to go on...

The room was hygienically empty, not a magazine, not a scrap of paper, just three armchairs, a small table with an ashtray, and on the painted walls three engravings of full-rigged ships in foul weather, C looked at the ships wearily, he felt a twinge in the vicinity of his stomach, the pain was not sharp but constant, it did not seem to come from the inside of the organs but from their walls, it was more like a painful contraction of the muscles, it radiated downward to the abdomen and upward under the ribs, at times it reached the vertebrae, C felt that if he could just lie down, flex his legs, and relax his muscles his painful organs would return to normal but this was not true, the pain never went away, actually it wasn't a real pain, more of a pressure, vague, diffuse, insistent, unbearable, he could forget it for over an hour at a time if his attention was concentrated, but it returned with disturbing regularity, even at night he could not sleep, everything was breaking down, his nerves were shot, he tired more easily, recovery was slower, C sank into a chair and closed his eyes.

As he did so the blond head of Johnnie rolled against his arm, there was a brief spasm, his lips sucked the air with a convulsive shudder, there was a sudden slackening of the legs and it was all over, they were lying in a rice paddy surrounded by a cloud of mauve mosquitoes, bullets, and mortar fire, behind me a GI said, "He's had it," we had to wait for night so the helicopters could land, the orderly in the copter removed the dog tags from the dead, his eyes met mine, he looked sad and bitter, he shuffled the dog tags in the palm of his hand and said, "They don't take up much space: a dozen Americans."

There's so much wrong with those two sentences. They skip around various topics. They switch point of view. And they're deplorable to read.

Now, having said all that, this book was originally published in 1967 in French language, and then translated and released in English two years later.

I picked this book up, because I read it when I was roughly 13 or so, so, ballpark, around 1975 or so. I remember enjoying enough that I picked up the only other Robert Merle book I ever found, Malevil, and I remember enjoying that one too.

Here we are, not quite fifty years later, and I can only think, damn, I was a lot more patient with crap writing back then.

Anyway, I couldn't bear the thought of wading through another 282 pages of this dreck, no matter if there is a good story buried in there somewhere.

And, because it's a DNF, no rating.
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TobinElliott | 9 other reviews | Jan 24, 2023 |
This is the fourth book in the author's series of historical novels set during the French wars of religion in the 16th and 17th centuries. This novel focuses on the 15 or so years after the infamous St Bartholomew's Eve massacre in 1572, particularly focusing on the attempts by the moderate King Henri III to keep his kingdom together, with the extreme Catholic League led by the Duc de Guise wanting to wipe out all Huguenots, while the childless King has no heir except his distant cousin the Protestant Henri of Navarre against whom he has to pretend to wage war while secretly wanting Navarre to succeed peacefully to the throne. In the last chapter, the moderate but exasperated King finally decides there is no alternative other than to assassinate Guise to prevent his plotting to overthrow him. This fourth novel felt less closely connected than its predecessors with the personal fortunes of the novels' narrator Pierre de Siorac who, nevertheless, manages to conduct his usual range of romantic and sexual escapades with many ladies. Not the best of the series, but a solid and enjoyable read as always. Now my problem is that none of the remaining nine books in the series have yet been translated into English and even the French versions seem hard to find.… (more)
john257hopper | 2 other reviews | May 30, 2022 |



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