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THE SEVEN SEAS
The P. E. N. Club Convention in Paris-The Revolt of the "Negres"— A Book about Paris-The Last Years of Rodin - The Sorrows of a Fat Man-La Brière-Shakespeare in Sweden - A Novelist from Holland-Germany and Magazines - Authors who Write in English.
HE outstanding literary event of
the past few months in Paris was the convention of the P. E. N. Clubs, which I mentioned briefly in my last notes. The P. E. N. is an international association of Poets and Playwrights, Essayists and Editors, and Novelists. Founded several years ago in London by Mrs. Dawson Scott, it now numbers some three thousand members living in twenty two different countries.
The gathering at Paris was a distinguished one, the speakers at the banquet including, in addition to John Galsworthy, president of the English centre, Paul Valéry and Georges Duhamel, who spoke in the name of the Cercle Littéraire International (the French branch of the P. E. N.), Gertrude Atherton from America, Pirandello from Italy, Heinrich Mann from Germany, Alexandre Kuprin from Russia, Johann Bojer from Scandinavia, and Miguel de Unamuno from Spain. Besides Mrs. Atherton, there were present other well known American authors: Alice Hegan Rice and Cale Young Rice, Gelett Burgess, Lula Vollmer, W. E. Woodward, the official delegate from the American. P. E. N. Club, Henry K. Marks, whose novel "Undertow" has proved so successful in French, Martin Flavin the playwright, and Pierre Loving.
During the executive sessions various important matters connected with
the international activities of the club were discussed. It was agreed that the next meeting should be held in Berlin during May, 1926. It was interesting to note during the discussions the way in which the various delegates, while maintaining their national point of view, were willing to accept suggestions, to make concessions, and to work in harmony for the common good. Among the countries which took active part in the different discussions were Belgium, Germany, England, Italy, Roumania, Austria, Poland, Mexico, the United States, Spain, and Holland.
Throughout the convention the presence and enthusiasm of John Galsworthy contributed largely to its success. Although Mr. Galsworthy was far from well (he had been in bed for a week with influenza before leaving England and fell a victim to typhoid fever early in June), his idealism animated and stimulated the delegates. The social side of the meeting was tactfully and successfully managed by Benjamin Crémieux, secretary of the French Cercle Littéraire International.
Teachers and parents frequently find it difficult to choose suitable reading matter in French for Anglo-Saxon boys and girls of the high school age. I feel justified in predicting that young people will enjoy a new series of volumes entitled "Nobles Vies: Grandes
Euvres" which the Librairie Plon has begun to publish. Written especially for young people by such well known authors as Henry Bordeaux, René Bazin, Paul Appell, Mary Duclaux, Paul Hazard, and Georges Goyau, these books describe in a simple yet vivid way the lives and aspirations of such men as Guynemer the airman, J. H. Fabre the naturalist, Charles de Foucault, the explorer of the Sahara, Victor Hugo, and other famous personalities.
The heroic side of prominent men and women, especially if they are our contemporaries, interests us less as a rule than their "human, all too human" characteristics. Two volumes, "Le Gazetier Indiscret" and "Le Théâtre Indiscret", provide an interesting peep behind the scenes of the Parisian literary and dramatic world, catch authors, publishers, producers, and actresses off their guard, and report a number of the most piquant anecdotes which have formed a part of the chronique scandaleuse during the past twelve months. Though the public abroad is not likely to know all the people whose saying and doings the authors have chronicled so maliciously, the foreign reader can still appreciate the wit and sparkle of their repartee. Enough figures of international reputation like Cécile Sorel, Paul Morand, Jean Cocteau, Anatole France, Pirandello, Madame Simone, and Léon Bakst are mentioned to satisfy the most inveterate lion hunter.
color but one of those unfortunate scribes who, for a mere pittance, supply their more celebrated colleagues with material which the latter publish over their own signatures. It might be added that this reprehensible system is by no means confined to the banks of the Seine. The enterprising "Journal Littéraire" came out with several articles on the subject, going so far as to give names and figures. Naturally these exposures aroused a burst of denials and protests. Two of the authors particularly incriminated were Willy, whose famous "Claudine" series is now generally admitted to be the work of Madame Colette, and Félicien Champsaur, whose name has been affixed to any number of "shilling shockers" which sell in thousands of copies all over the world.
The employment of a nègre is in no sense limited to professional novelists. In fact, it is still more common among celebrities who, having achieved notoriety in some walk of life in which a literary training is not necessary, consent, either for the added glory or more tangible returns, to inform the public how they become famous or tell some "inside" stories about their profession. One of the best known French nègres, the humorist Curnonsky, admitted recently that he had been employed both by a well known comic. actor to write a novel of stage life and by a member of the d'Orléans family to describe his exploits in big game hunting in Africa. Curnonsky added: "Not a single critic recognized how much alike the two books were!"
Something of a storm in Paris publishing circles has recently been provoked by what may be called "The Revolt of the Nègres". In Parisian slang a nègre is not a gentleman of
Lovers of Paris everywhere will rejoice in the album of illustrations accompanied by explicative text which Marcel Poète has just issued as the second part of his monumental work
"Une Vie de Cité: Paris de sa Naissance à Nos Jours". The first volume of this magnum opus appeared about a year ago and was received with enthusiastic praise from critics both in France and abroad. As director of the important Institut d'Histoire et de Géographie de la Ville de Paris, Marcel Poéte has had exceptional opportunities for collecting unusual and little known material. He has made good He has made good use of these facilities. But he is not only an historian, satisfied with retracing the story of the city's development from pre-Roman times down to our own day. He is also an artist and knows how to sustain the reader's interest. Just as in the earlier work Poète did not confine himself to dry municipal records but enlivened his pages with a wealth of anecdote drawn from the popular literature of the time, the street songs, satiric pamphlets, and even fiction, so in the present volume he gives us much more than a mere collection of photographs of various historical remains. On the contrary, a great number of the six hundred illustrations in this attractively produced work are taken from illuminated manuscripts, old engravings, caricatures of the eighteenth century, fashion plates, and the drawings of Gavarni and Daumier. The life of the Parisian of bygone days is thus vividly reproduced. The text which comments on the pictures and links them together is simple, entertaining, and authoritative.
Marcelle Tirel's book, "The Last Years of Rodin", bears the stamp of truth. In spite of the considerable literature which has sprung up round the majestic figure of the greatest of modern sculptors, this curious study of his private life sheds new light on his extremely complex personality. Mar
celle Tirel was Rodin's secretary and typist. In this outspoken book she has given us an intimate glimpse of the last eleven years of his life. Mme. Tirel reveals candidly but not unsympathetically the pettinesses, vanities, amours, extravagances and follies of the Master. She describes Rodin's lifelong attachment to Marie-Rose Beuret, whom he met as a young man and whom he married a few months before his death. It is the kind of romance only to be associated with genius. The book has had the inevitable succès de scandale in Paris and is now published in England by A. M. Philpot, Ltd.
Henri Béraud, author of "The Sorrows of a Fat Man", is substantial enough in girth and agile enough with his pen to deserve the designation of the G. K. Chesterton of France.
In this amusing book he tilts indulgently at the physical disabilities of fat "Le Martyre de l'Obèse" — to give the book its original title — and his historical novel "Le Vitriol de Lune" were awarded the Prix Goncourt. Béraud is acknowledged to be one of the most able and vigorous journalists in France. The cloven hoof of the born journalist is discernible in the dedication page of "The Sorrows of a Fat Man", which contains a list of the most celebrated fat Frenchmen of our time, including Joffre, Herriot, Lucien Guitry, Pierre Benoit, and Robert Dieudonné. To them, says Béraud, "I dedicate this book which the thin will take as a work of humor".
A new novel by Alphonse de Châteaubriant is a literary event. His new work, "La Brière", is a sombre tragedy of the soil. La Brière is a district at
the mouth of the Loire. The Brieron peasants live by digging and selling peat. Aoustin, the dominant figure in this powerful story, is a dour, inflexible man, unloved and unloving a product of the relentless soil. The misfortunes which overtake him - his son's marriage to a girl from hated Brittany, his wife and daughter's deceit owing to their terror of his harshness, the loss of his powerful position as "guard" of the district, and the tragedy of his daughter and her lover - culminate in a climax which for dramatic quality has few equals in modern literature. "La Brière" reminds one irresistibly of Thomas Hardy. The book will be published in England by Thornton Butterworth.
An admirable study of Shakespeare for Swedish readers has been produced by Dr. Brunius, who will be remembered as the author of a useful little book on modern English literature. The 150 pages of his book "William Shakespeare: Liv, Drama, Theater" (Bokforlaget Natur och Kultur: Stockholm) are tastefully illustrated. Dr. Brunius holds the view that Shakespeare deliberately obscured his own personality in his work.
Now that Louis Couperus is dead, Jo van Ammers-Kuller is entitled to be regarded as Holland's most distinguished living novelist. "The House of Joy" was her first novel to be translated. It met with considerable success when published in England recently by Philpot. Her visit recently to New York probably foreshadows the introduction of her work to American readers. The book on which she is now at work is to be a Dutch "Milestones", and tells the story of three Dutch
women in 1830, 1870, and the present day. Mevrouw van Ammers-Kuller is a charming woman who speaks English fluently.
Marjorie Bowen is so justly celebrated for her admirable historical romances and short stories that her keen interest in Holland and the Dutch people is apt to be overlooked. It will, however, find expression in the forthcoming publication of her book on the Netherlands, entitled "The Swimming Lion". The title of course has heraldic significance. "The Swimming Lion" has involved several years of research and should prove a valuable contribution to our knowledge of the country, its history and its people. It contains some exceptionally fine illustrations and will be published simultaneously in England and Holland.
just been sold for a record sum. Miss Ostenso herself is a Norwegian by birth, but left her native country for America at the age of two. She is using part of her prize money in paying her first visit to England and in going to Norway. "The Passionate Flight" will be published this fall by Dodd, Mead, and by Hodder and Stoughton in England. It has been pronounced by critics who have read it to be as good as "Growth of the Soil". Miss Ostenso is an attractive twenty four year old school teacher from the northwest.
The French market for translated American and English books is moribund, if not actually dead. A firm of international literary agents declare that it is easier to sell a book in Hottentot than in France at the present time. The insularity of the French has never been more unfortunately demonstrated than in their publishers' reluctance and, frequently, blank refusal to consider the publication of the work of English and American authors. They politely but firmly point to the inevitable "better book" by a Frenchman when an English or American book on the same subject is suggested a curious repudiation of the essential cosmopolitanism of literature.
Germany, by way of contrast, has just bought the translation rights of all May Sinclair's novels. The first to be published is "Mr. Waddington of Wyck". Another author whose entire output has been contracted for is Peter B. Kyne this time by Spain.
Arpad Ferenczy, the clever Hungarian who wrote "The Ants of Anthony Thummel", a satire on the present condition of Europe, has now published a book called "Kunala", a collection of Indian tales. Mr. Ferenczy is an ardent misogynist, if we are to credit the main motif of the fifteen tales in this volume. Nevertheless, "Kunala" has what the film critics call "entertainment value".
Another Hungarian author who writes in English is Dr. Geza Roheim, the young anthropologist whose study of "Australian Totemism: A Psychoanalytic Study in Anthropology" is due for publication shortly.
An interesting list could be made of foreign authors who have written in English in preference to their mother tongues. Pride of place must of course be given to Joseph Conrad. Other names which at once suggest themselves include Paul Selver, the Czech author of "Schooling" (published by A. & C. Boni), that satirical novel of English school life, and the translator of the famous Capek plays "R. U. R." and "The World We Live In"; Odette Keun, author of "My Adventures in Bolshevik Russia", an anonymous novel which created a sensation in England, and now "Prince Tariel", a vivid and memorable novel of Georgia; and, of course, that brilliant Armenian, Dikran Kouyoumdjian, better known on both sides of the ocean as Michael Arlen.