21 August 2016

Roger Vailland: Les mauvais Coups (1948)

There are a number of autobiographical elements in Les mauvais Coups, Roger Vailland's second novel. Certainly there is something of himself in the protagonist Milan, of his first wife Andrée Blavette (or Boule) in Roberte, of his dear friend the poet Roger Gilbert-Lecomte in Octave (who doesn't appear here but is mentioned), and of course there's much drinking and a whole chapter is devoted to reckless gambling.

Milan (French for the kite bird of prey) is actually married to Roberte (whom he dreams of as a violent bird), although he doesn't believe in marriage, believes in freedom, believes in having lovers as he pleases, they have no real significance (although one (Juliette) obviously was, which is why Roberte slapped her face). And what can be more, er, significant than suicide, as performed by Octave who had been having an affair with Roberte and kills himself over her, or Roberte's final drunken (or maybe not so drunken) act of driving into a swamp after (presumably) reading Milan's letter to the lovely and much younger Hélène? After fifteen years (Milan with Roberte) what is left of love, if that means a great deal after the dying of the burning passion? Is all that remains just, as the cover illustration indicates, Milan the hunter symbolically crushing the skull of a crow, as if it were Roberte's? No, he clearly shows that he knows there are various kinds of love.

Is love that first dying burn, like the burn of winning at the roulette or the chemin de fer table, the burn of shooting defenceless animals, or does it take a long time to grow, like Vailland's emotional maturity?

My other Roger Vailland posts:

Roger Vailland: La Loi
Roger Vailland: 325.000 francs

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