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Vertigo (1956)

by Boileau-Narcejac

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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307970,191 (3.68)12
A troubled ex-policeman struggles in a web of deceit in this classic thriller, which inspired the most famous Hitchcock blockbuster of them all.

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Wow! Nicely done. Especially if you haven't seen the movie. ( )
  OutOfTheBestBooks | Sep 24, 2021 |
An intriguing mystery, revolving around an obsessional neurotic's decent into psychosis. Flavières' fixation upon the otherworldly Madeleine is creepy from the outset, develops into unpleasantness, finally twisting into a controlling abusiveness. Well-worthy of the Hitchcock treatment, a psychological drama which left me with a bad taste in my mouth. ( )
  Michael.Rimmer | Jan 12, 2020 |
Yep, this is that Vertigo, the one that Alfred Hitchcock made famous although you shouldn’t go into this hoping to find it similar to the movie. For starters, this was not based in San Francisco. The book was written in 1954 by French collaborators (a poor choice of words) Pierre Boileau and Pierre Ayraud under the pen name Boileau-Narcejac. Originally titled D'entre les morts, "Among the Dead" it is based in Paris during the years just before and shortly after the German occupation. It is a fascinating tale of suspense that is oh so French, complete with lots of lunches in Parisian cafés and walks along the Seine. And passion. We mustn't forget the passion. This is Paris, after all.

Former policeman Roger Flavières is hired by an old acquaintance to keep tabs on his wife whom he claims has been behaving strangely. She has apparently developed an unhealthy obsession with a grandmother that had committed suicide long ago. The acquaintance, Gévigne, says that his wife has begun copying the dress and mannerisms of the deceased granny and he is worried about her. Flavières reluctantly agrees to look into the matter but his reluctance vanishes quickly once he lays eyes on the Mme. Gévigne, and he rapidly falls head over heals in love with her.

It doesn't end well, but I'll let you discover that for yourself.

For a long time I had no idea where this story was going. Is it a crime story, a psychological drama, maybe even something a bit paranormal? I had no clue. I hadn't seen the movie in decades and couldn't remember how it ended but from all that I had heard, the endings might be totally different. (They still might. I have a copy of the movie on hold at the library.) The ending totally took me by surprise, which made up for a few slow spots in the third quarter that bordered on tedious.

Bottom line: This book has been on my tbr list for a few years and I am glad that I finally read it. Now I definitely want to read Celle qui n'était plus which director Henri-Georges Clouzot made into the magnificent movie, Diabolique.

My thanks to the folks at the Pulp Fiction group for introducing me to this and many other fine books and giving me the opportunity to discuss it with them. ( )
1 vote Unkletom | Nov 6, 2017 |

"Do you think it's possible to live again, Monsieur? ... I mean ... is it possible to die and then ... live again in someone else?"

You're no longer in the police, but when an old friend asks you to look after his wife as a favour, how can you refuse? She's been behaving strangely, mysteriously - but she's dazzling. And so Flavières begins to scour the streets of Paris in search of an answer - in search of a woman who belongs to no one, not even to herself. Soon intrigue is replaced by obsession, and dreams by nightmares, as the boundaries between the living and the dead begin to blur.

This is the story of a desperate man. A man who ended up compromising his own morality beyond all measure, while the Second World War raged outside his front door. A man tormented by his search for the truth, and ultimately destroyed by a dark, terrible secret.

A bit of classic crime fiction with French double act Boileau and Narcejac’s 1954 book Vertigo – the basis for Hitchcock’s classic film.
My take.....

Set in war-time Paris, former detective Flavieres is asked by an old friend Gevigne to keep an eye on his wife. Something appears to be troubling Madeleine but her husband can’t put his finger on it.

Flavieres, a lawyer and a loner agrees and very soon becomes obsessed with Madeleine. Madeleine behaves strangely, visiting a graveyard, renting a hotel room for afternoon visits, penning letters but ripping them into pieces before attempting to drown herself. Flavieres rescues her and as a consequence his relationship with her becomes more intimate (not in a physical sense).

She is convinced that she has lived before, as one of her ancestors – Pauline Lagerlac - her great grandmother who committed suicide. The Paris narrative ends with the death of Madeleine falling from a high church tower in a town away from the capital. Flavieres again, overcome by vertigo is impotent and unable to prevent her sudden actions.

At this point in reading, I realised I had seen the film albeit some years previously. Long enough ago to have forgotten the outcome anyway.

The second part of our book, picks up four years later in Marseilles. Flavieres is still alone, his life revolving around his next drink. A chance viewing of a newsreel clip featuring DeGaulle in Marseilles and Flavieres believes he catches a glimpse of Madeleine as the camera pans the crowd.

His obsession reawakens.

Fantastic book, complex, convoluted plot but plausible enough or at least not too fanciful to require a suspension of belief. Flavieres is interesting as our protagonist; he’s neither loathsome or sympathetic, which is a clever portrayal and balancing act. Did I care about him and his outcome? Probably not, I was more interested in getting to the bottom of the book.

Great read

4.5 out of 5.

I’m tempted to re-watch the film soon. Vertigo the movie is set in the US unlike the book. I’m unable to remember whether the two – that difference apart – resemble each other closely or not. It’ll be interesting to check.

Vertigo has recently been republished by Pushkin Vertigo Press. Their website is here.

A recent blog post highlighted their recent launch and mission statement. Here.

I received a copy of this from them.

Read in September, 2015
http://col2910.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09... ( )
  col2910 | Feb 11, 2016 |
This is certainly a mind-bending thriller, as the back cover proclaims. Paul Gévigne hires his old friend Roger Flavières to shadow his wife, Madeleine, whom Gévigne thinks is subject to trances and likely to commit suicide. Flavières ends up becoming obsessed with Madeleine, and dramatic events ensue that are familiar to those who have seen the film. This translation, by Geoffrey Sainsbury, does the job well and did not make me wonder what the original French was, as can sometimes happen to me with French-to-English translations. I did lose some patience with Flavières' anguish and carrying on, though.

Overall, this is a good way to experience the source material for one of Hitchcock's best-known films. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Dec 17, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Boileau-Narcejacprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bass, SaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Francis LacassinPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Geoffrey SainsburyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
"Look here!" said Gevigne. "I want you to keep an eye on my wife."
Voilà, dit Gévigne. Je voudrais que tu surveilles ma femme.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Vertigo (Original title: The Living and the Dead)
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A troubled ex-policeman struggles in a web of deceit in this classic thriller, which inspired the most famous Hitchcock blockbuster of them all.

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