Whereas Philippe's stories in Dans la petite ville were just that – tales based on those he'd heard or those he imagined happening in the small town of Cérilly where he was born – there are also stories based in la grande ville – Paris, and arguably some of those are a little darker. Of interest (and perhaps a little surprise) is 'Deux apaches' ('Two Thugs'), young yobs who think the world revolves around them, have not the slightest consideration for anyone else, and think nothing of stabbing a drunk in the back and running off leaving him dead. It is the 'apaches' who occupy Lucien's thoughts and fears as he walks back after a drinking session to the (at the time) rather remote Montrouge at one in the morning, although these change to fears of being attacked by a lion escaped from a festival: however, with a rather Maupassian ironic twist (not very usual in Philippe's writing) it transpires that it is not the lion but a dog that he should have been frightened of.
As there are thirty-six stories here, it would be stupid for me to comment on all of them, but I was pulled up sharply when I began 'La Visite'. Philippe had been friends with another working-class writer – Marguerite Audoux – and it was with some surprise that I discovered he'd included a version of her in this story: the character too is called Marguerite (but Dubost), her father walked out on her when she was very young, she was brought up by nuns and then forced to shepherd sheep, later moving to Paris and working as a seemstress, etc. And again, there is a drunken father in 'L'Ivrogne', with two daughters called Marguerite and Madeleine, the name of Marguerite's sister.
Included in the non-Matin stories in one Philippe wrote for the communist paper L'Humanité: true to his usual form, 'Pour les jours des rois' is a working-class story, but one everyone learns differently: Philippe's take on the Nativity is that the three wise men visiting Jesus is a lie invented by the rich, because it was in effect a humble clogmaker and his wife (much like, say, Philippe's parents) who took in Joseph and his heavily pregnant wife.
It won't be long before I read more of Charles-Louis Philippe.