Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Penguin Modern Classics 3 – French Classics

It has been decades since I last read most of the books in the Penguin Modern Classics series, so I can hardly remember what they were about. Whether I’ll ever get around to reading them again is questionable. Besides, having been tucked away on bookshelves for so many years, I dare say they would disintegrate upon opening; the glue that holds them together having well and truly dried out.

So first up in the French Modern Classics I present ancient paperbacks of Albert Camus. It’s amazing that I can still remember the opening sentences of The Outsider – “ Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure”

camus_outsider1970_jacques villon_r duchamp camus_plague1968_michael ayrton
1970 edition – cover “R. Duchamp” by Jacques Villon 1968 edition – cover by Michael Ayrton

Blaise Cedrars was Swiss born, but became a French citizen in 1916.  I have only one of his novels, that being  Moravagine.

cedrars_moragavine1979_thomas hafner_lucifer
1979 edition – cover “Lucifer” by Thomas Hafner

Two early modern classics by well known French luminaries, Les Enfants Terribles by Jean Cocteau and Ripening Seed by Colette. I have a large collection of Colette’s books in Penguin editions, but Ripening Seed appears to be the only one I have in the Modern Classics series.

cocteau_enfants1964 colette_ripening seed1961
1964 edition – cover image by Jean Cocteau 1961 Edition – no image credit


I must admit that the next book, Le Grand Meaulnes, the sole novel of Alain-Fournier, was a great favourite of mine when I was in my early twenties. It is one book I really must reread before I die.

I also have a hard cover edition (in French) with a lengthy introduction and biography of Fournier (in English) by Robert Gibson.

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1970 edition – cover “Small Meadows in Spring” by Alfred Sisley

The novels of André Gide are well represented in the Penguin Classics series and I appear to have four of them.

gide_immoralist1968_van dongen_les fellans gide_pastorale1967_giovanni thermes
1968 edition – cover “Les Fellans” by Van Dongen 1967 edition – cover by Giovanni Thermes
gide_straight1974_matisse_the reader gide_vatican cellars1969_t garbari_the intellectuals
1974 edition- cover “The Reader” by Matisse 1969 edition – cover “The Intellectuals” by T Garbari

Thérèse (Desqueyroux) is Francois Mauriac’s best known novel, chiefly for its unusual structure, which uses internal monologues to illuminate the thoughts of the characters.

Raymond Radiguet died at the young age of 20, but authored the scandalous (at the time) novel, Devil In The Flesh. Penguin included it their modern classics series in 1971.

mauriac_therese1975_chaime soutine_paysage avec personnage allonge radiguet_devil1971_lithograph_valentine hugo
1975 edition – cover “Paysage avec personnage allonge” by Chaime Soutine 1971 edition – cover Lithograph by Valentine Hugo

And finally for French Modern Classics, Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint Exupéry, author of the The Little Prince.

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1969 edition – cover photo from Arabian American Oil Company

Next I’ll tackle German modern classics.

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