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”
|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.
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.
|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.
The novels of André Gide are well represented in the Penguin Classics series and I appear to have four of them.
|1968 edition – cover “Les Fellans” by Van Dongen||1967 edition – cover by Giovanni Thermes|
|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.
|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.
Next I’ll tackle German modern classics.