Monday, July 20, 2009

A Reader from France Writes in- And, Two New Arsole Fantüme Scans!

A couple of days ago I received the following email from a reader in France, who also happens to be a big Arsole Fantüme fan. I asked the author if he’d mind my sharing it with you, and he said no, but asked that his name be withheld. I honor that request, and translate it from French:

Noble Ricky,

Greetings from the home of Arsole Fantüme! I was very much excited to stumble on your blog entries. This strange character has been unjustly neglected for too long, even here in France. Perhaps your English translation will bring some publicity to the book. It is one of the weirdest I’ve ever read.

You mentioned that you’re doing your translation work from scans of photocopies of the original novel, published in 1901. I don’t know if your photocopies included either of the drawings of Arsole Fantüme in action, but in case you don’t have them, I’m attaching scans. They were drawn by someone who signed his work “Falîco.” Good luck trying to find out anything about him. I can’t! For all I know, the Arsole drawings were all he ever did.

I’m also attaching scans of a short story the authors, Marcel Maurice and Pierre, wrote together called “The Devil In The Ass” (you have mentioned this story on your blog- it is the one in which a deacon drives the devil out of a nun by giving her an enema). It was published in a collection called The Misery of Religion, which was limited to a mere 500 copies, very few of which still exist (the scans are from my own personal copy). In it, you will find some similarities with “Arsole Fantüme.”

Please keep me posted on your progress with the translation- I will happily buy a copy when it is published. Any friend of Arsole is a friend to me!


Of course I was overjoyed to get this email. I had photocopies of the drawings, but these high-resolution scans look absolutely beautiful, and I’m so glad to have them. Also, I can’t believe that I have a new Marcel Maurice and Pierre story to translate! Perhaps I’ll put this up on the blog- it’s hilarious.

But speaking of “Falîco”- in a strange bit of synchronicity, I just happen to have been recently reading Fantastique Littéraire, which had the following in an essay by the authors of “Vertigo,” (“The Living and the Dead”), “Diabolique,” and “Eyes Without a Face,” Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac:

“Our most secret inspirations are most certainly the mysterious Marcel Maurice and Pierre, who lived and wrote together in the early part of this century. Their only published novel, Arsole Fantüme, Gentleman Immoralist, was like a mythical treasure that we spent years searching for. When we finally found it, we feared to read it, worried that it would not live up to the expectations set forth in our minds.

“We need not have worried! This is a book of wonderful imagination and ingenuity, in which anything can- and does- happen. The sense of wild abandon that the book creates is perfectly captured by the strange and tawdry illustrations by 'Falîco,' which was, according to legend, the pen name of one of Maurice’s and Pierre’s 'wives.' Their living arrangement was quite modern and open.”

So, the creator of these strange illustrations was a woman who had a romantic relationship with both authors (at least according to Boileau and Narcejac). The mystery of the authors' lives deepens!

UPDATE: Order the novel Arsole Fantüme, Gentleman Immoralist from amazon here.

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