6 December 2011

Emmanuel Bove: Le Piège (1945)

Emmanuel Bove was born in 1898 and died at the age of 47 in 1945 following a long infectious illness. He published a number of novels and several selections of short stories, was praised by Colette, Samuel Beckett and Rainer Maria Rilke, but in spite of some re-publication in the 1980s remains relatively unknown even in France.

Bove refused to have any books published in occupied France, wanted to meet with de Gaulle in England, but instead ended up in Algeria. There are a few similarities between Bove and the protagonist Joseph Bridet in this novel.

Le Piège (lit. 'The Trap, but not translated) (1945) plunges the reader into a Kafkaesque nightmare world of occupied France where misunderstanding, paranoia, surveillance, and purposeless random executions are the order of the day, where no one can be trusted and the people don't know what is happening, nor why.

In Lyons, Bridet wants to leave for England but doesn't know how to, so goes to see his friend Basson in Vichy, who's an attaché with the general management of the national police. He doesn't, of course, tell him that he wants to go to England, but from Basson onwards it's all downhill, waiting for various Vichy officials who convey nothing to him other than their suspicion of him, and he knows he's in trouble.

Yolande is his naive wife with almost unbelievable confidence in the legal process, so she's certain that nothing can happen to Bridet as he hasn't done anything wrong; however, in her naivety she unwittingly makes things worse for him. On reaching Paris with a futile plan to go to England, he's arrested, communist tracts planted on him, then he's imprisoned and eventually executed.

I'm not at all certain why Bove has fallen out of favor with the reading public, although perhaps his 'subtle' and 'latent' misogyny that Alain Clerval finds — and which he speaks about in his Aferword in the 1986 Gallimard re-publication — is a contributory factor.

My other posts on Emmanuel Bove:

Emmanuel Bove: Cœurs et visages
Emmanuel Bove: Cimetière du Montparnasse

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