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Le Diable au corps


Le Diable au corps


Le Diable au Corps, is a treasure of early twentieth century romanticism. Long unavailable in the U.S., it is here presented in an original French Language digital edition.

Everything begins in perversity and provocation: the narrator concedes that his story will make the reader judge him harshly for his wartime behavior. While the soldiers are off fighting at the front, adolescent boys are having sex with their wives.

Set in Paris during the First World War, it tells the story of Francois, the 16-year-old narrator, who falls in love with Marthe, an older, married woman whose husband is off fighting at the front. In the tense environment of the wartime city, their love takes on a desperation transcending their youthfulness. What perhaps bolstered the distress of readers is the knowledge there were more than a few wives who cheated on their soldier husbands and gave birth to illegitimate children.

And as the badly-kept secret of their relationship unfolds, scandal descends, leading the story to a final, startling conclusion—and causing the book itself to become a scandal when it was first published in 1923, just before the author's death at the age of 20.

With an accuracy of insight almost ruthless, he describes his conflicting emotions—the pride of an adolescent on the verge of manhood and the pain of a child thrust too fast into maturity.

 “Although Radiguet was so young, he had managed to zone in on the perversity of human love with an accuracy which anticipates, or is in parallel development with, Freud...”

—The Guardian


RAYMOND RADIGUET (1903–1923) was a precocious French novelist and poet who wrote (at age 17) a masterwork of astonishing insight and stylistic excellence: Le Diable au Corps.  Radiguet left school at fifteen and was soon contributing articles to newspapers and journals in Paris, where he became the protégé and lover of Jean Cocteau. Radiguet published poems, criticism, and a play, while leading an increasingly self-destructive life. He died of typhoid at age 20, contracted by eating oysters. The manuscript of his second novel, Le Bal du Comte d’Orgel, was organized for posthumous publication by Cocteau. His life was brief, but his achievements were immense. With Le Diable au Corps, he created an extraordinary novel, complex and cruel, excoriating of self and society—a remarkable depiction of alienated adolescence.

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