25 October 2015

Paris 2015: Cimetière parisien de Bagneux #5: Francis Carco

1886 – 1958'

Francis Carco was born in Nouméa, New Caledonia, which he is quoted as calling the '[French] prison capital' by André Negis in his biography Mon ami Carco (1953; repr. 1986). Negis's first chapter is called 'Le Goût du Malheur' (lit. 'The Taste of Misfortune') after Carco's novel Vérotchka l'Étrangère ou le Goût du malheur (1923). Carco spent the first five years of his life in New Caledonia, and was considerably marked by it, by his father speaking of the treatment of the prisoners at the family dinner table, by a man being beheaded for killing his prison warden, by regularly seeing convicts in chains.

In his early twenties he frequented the 'Lapin Agile' in Montmartre with such regulars as Pierre Mac Orlan, Maurice Garçon et Roland Dorgelès. His first novel, Jésus-la-caille – which involves a homosexual pimp – was first published in Mercure de France thanks to the novelist Rachilde, who was co-director of the magazine and the wife of Alfred Valette, its founder: they are also buried in the Cimetière parisien de Bagneux (see my next post).

Famously, Carco had a brief relationship with Katherine Mansfield in an 'escape' from her husband John Middleton Murry in 1915, and the character Duquette in her short story 'Je ne parle pas français is modelled on Carco.

Carco wrote a number of novels, and Le Roman de François Villon (1926), a fictionalised biography.

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