TamTam Books News

Sunday, February 22, 2004:

This is an interesting biography on Boris Vian by Jan den Breejen - do note that at the end of the essay he quotes Pierre Kast, who was a filmmaker and author. Kast made a film with Vian in it called 'Le bel age' (1959).

Here's the bio and I found this :
http://www.9types.com/movieboard/messages/6652.html


Boris Vian was born on 10 March 1920, the second of four children.
His father, Paul Georges Vian, was eight years younger than his mother, Yvonne. Vian wrote:
"There is no such thing as a good parent. All parents are the same ... in so far as the thickness of blood is concerned, I don't believe in it. ... Never have they beaten me.... One could not make them angry. To make them angry, you had to do it on purpose. It was necessary to trick them into it. Every time I felt like being upset, I had to make believe I was."
Boris's father was a liberal who,like his son after him, despised the church. He translated books from English, didn't have much interest in working, oversaw a financial decline of substantial proportions, and died in mysterious circumstances in 1944.
In 1932 Boris's heart was affected by rhuematic fever. Three years later he was struck down again, this time with typhoid fever. More heart problems.
If we regard L'Herbe rouge as largely autobiographical it appears that Boris felt he was smothered by motherly love. He wrote:
"I was being drowned in love. I was loved too much; and as I did not love myself, I concluded logically the stupidity of those who loved me ... their bad intentions even. ... When I looked out a window, I was not allowed to bend; I could not cross the street by myself; whenever the wind would start to blow, I had to put on my winter coat whether it be winter or summer, and I could never take off my wool sweater.... My health was something terrible. Up to age fifteen I could only drink boiled water. But the cowardice of my parents consisted in the fact that ... they made me, in the long run, fear for myself, they made me tell myself that I was fragile .... During all of my childhood, my father and my mother have taken on their shoulders everything that could possibly hurt me. Morally, I felt a very strong embarrassment about it, but my softened flesh hypocritically enjoyed it all .... Then I was ashamed of myself, ashamed of my parents, and I hated them. ... I would get away in order to appear that I was elsewhere ... little by little I built around me a world of my own ... without sweaters, without parents. Empty and luminous like a boreal landscape, and I wandered in it, tireless and tough, the nose up in the air and the eyes looking straight forward."
In 1937 Boris Vian began to be interested in jazz and to learn the trumpet. He became a member of the Hot Club of France, and went to a concert of Duke Ellington who was then touring Europe.
He married Michelle Léglise on 3 July 1941. "At the outset, it was in order to amuse Michelle that Boris began to write," Michel Rybalka wrote in his book on Vian.
Michelle was only three months younger than Boris, and they were both only twenty. Not long after they were married, Boris joined the Association Française de Normalisation (AFNOR) as an engineer. He worked there until 1946.
He began writing a lot more in his spare time after he took this job and both Trouble dans les Andains (posthumous) and Vercoquin et le plancton date from around 1943.
Vian was vehemently anti-war. He made his antimitilitarism (and his scorn for existentialism) plain when he wrote:
"War is a social phenomenon of capital interest because all those who engage in it may earn a pure and complete objectification and thus reach the corpse state ... but war does not provide a solution because often one is not killed."
In the middle 1950s, at the time of the Algerian crisis he wrote popular songs including "Le Déserteur," whose public performance was forbidden at the time, but which became posthumously a national and international success.
In L'Equarrisage pour tous Vian explained his position regarding war:
"I regret to be one of those to whom war does not inspire any patriotic reflections ... nor any murderous enthusiasm, nor any poignant, or sudden piety-it gives me nothing but a despairing anger, total, against the absurdity of battles which are word battles but which kill men of flesh.... War is a grotesque thing ... and those, who are amused by it believe that they are, in general, entitled to extend it so that it should incorporate those who are not amused by it. War is one of the multiple faces of intolerance, and a most destructive one. That is why, in the reduced measure in which something written, and therefore artificial, can have any effect, I have tried to react against it...."
and also:
"The fighter who did not get himself killed has the mentality of a failure; therefore he will do his best to compensate for his deficiency and will fall into the trap of preparing his next; or, how can he prepare it well since he just got away from the preceding one and consequently, from the point of view of war, he is disqualified."
"May I be believed: The day when no one will return from war will mark the first well-made war. On that day we shall notice that all abortive attempts which had been made at peace had been until then the work of amateurs."
In 1946 he completed the manuscript of L'Ecume des jours, and later that year, in 15 days between the fifth and the twentieth of August, he wrote the entire manuscript of J'irai cracher sur vos tombes.
The book, which was the result of a bet with his friend Jean d'Halluin, who wanted a best-seller for Editions du Scorpion appeared under the pseudonym of Vernon Sullivan, with Vian listed as translator.
J'irai cracher sur vos tombes sold in excess of half a million copies upon release and it provided Vian with considerable financial security for some time to come.
Several months later, in February, 1947, in a small hotel of Montparnasse, a young man called Edmond Rougé murdered his mistress, leaving a copy of J'irai cracher sur vos tombes opened to the passage where the hero also kills his mistress.
As a result the President of the Cartel d'Action Sociale et Morale introduces a lawsuit against the author eventually finding that the book was an affront to public morals. In 1950 Vian was ordered to pay a fine of one hundred thousand francs.
Meanwhile Vian was writing. In 1947 he published Vercoquin et le plancton, L'Automne a Pekin and Les Morts ont tous la meme peau, the latter another Sullivan book.
1948 saw the publication of Et on tuera tous les affreux (Sullivan) by the newspaper France-Dimanche, as well as the presentation of the play version of J'irai cracher sur vos tombes, a speech "The usefulness of an erotic literature" at the Club Saint-James, Barnum's Digest and his own translation of J'irai cracher sur vos tombes into English under the title I shall spit on your graves.
Troubles in his marriage are hinted at in L'Herbe Rouge:
I got married because I physically needed a woman; because I had a certain repugnance for lying and courting, which obligated me to get married when I was too young to be able to please someone physically. Because she was a woman whom I thought I loved, and whose milieux, opinions, characteristics, were convenient. I got married almost without knowing the female sex. What was the result of all that? No passion, the slow initiation of too virgin a woman, lassitude on my part ... precisely at the time when she began to be interested, I was too tired to make her happy; too tired because I had waited for too long the violent response for which I had hoped in spite of all logic. She was pretty. I loved her all right, I liked her. It was not sufficient.
At one of Gaston Gallimard's parties, he met a young Swiss dancer named Ursula Kübler, who had recently moved to Paris.They began li\ving together, his divorce from Michelle came through in 1952, and two years later he married Ursula.
The plays L'Equarrissage pour tous, Le Dernier des métiers, one of his best novels, L'Herbe rouge and Elles se rendent pas compte were all published in 1950.
Sales were poor and Vian made ends meet with translations of authors including Strindberg, Dorothy Baker, Ray Bradbury, A. E. Van Vogt, and General Omar Bradley.
Of this period, Vian wrote:
One sees from time to time benevolent advisors, fat on fat cheeses, deplore with scorn some writers who abandon art for the low, material tasks of journalism, popular songs, novels that are not literature, or translations, that is to say for pure and simple grocery items. It is regrettable that these advisors forget an elementary truth... that It is easy to create when one has the material means for living without prostituting oneself.
Vian became a member of the College of Pataphysicians in 1952. This group of highly intelligent pranksters celebrated the works of Alfred Jarry, a precursor to both the surrealists and the absurdists who wrote the outrageous play Ubu Roi, and detailed his theories of 'pataphysics in The Adventures of Dr Faustroll.
Pataphysics is as far beyond metaphysics as metaphysics is beyond physics. It is the science of the impossible. In other words, liberation through imagination. One of its characteristics is the earnest scientific discussion of stupid ideas, such as the traversing of Paris by means of "land tides" in a boat made from a material composed of millions of small holes.
In Vian's time, the Cahiers du Collége de Pataphysique, had an involved hierarchy of Rulers and Commissions under the supervision of a Vice-Curator, six Proveditors-General, Officials of the Rogation and Executive Organon, as well as a full Corps of Satraps. Members included film director and poet René Clair, the celebrated novelist Raymond Queneau, the poet Jacques Prévert, and the playwright Eugéne Ionesco.
Members would meet regularly for honors, processionals, decorations, and titles. Vian was in charge of the Extraordinary Commission on Clothing, and a frequent contributor to the publication of the College.
His last novel, published in 1953, L'Arrache-coeur, had only negative reviews, as did his two musical contributions of the same year, Le Chevalier de neige, an opera presented at the Normandy Festival of Caen, and his adaptation of Georg Kaiser's L'Incendie de l'Opera
In 1954 Vian participated in a popular song tourney throughout France. In 1955 he taped his many "possible" and "impossible songs."
In the course of the same year he became the artistic director of Philips Recording Co., a job he held until 1959.
After 1956 his health dramatically worsened. Nevertheless, he continued to write, publishing the play Les Batisseurs d'Empire, and many articles for Jazz-Hot.
In 1958 he finished his opera Fiesta written with Darius Milhaud and left Philips to work with the Barclay Recording Co., once again as artistic director.
On 23 June he went to a preview screening of the film J'irai cracher sur vos tombes. He strongly disapproved of the film's treatment of his work, having battled with the film company for years and having all his own film treatments of the book rejected by the producers. Having forgotten to take his medicine that morning, and very agitated, the experience literally killed him.
After ten minutes of attendance, seated in an armchair, he collapsed and died.
After his death, as is often the case, his career took off. In 1959, Batisseurs d'Empire was an enormous stage success. An Association of Friends of Boris Vian was formed with members including Maurice Béjart, Aimé Césaire, René Clair, Jacques Delerue, Max Ernst, Arnold Kübler, Michel Leiris, Baron Jean Mollet, the Préverts, Darius Milhaud, and Jean-Paul Sartre.
His books were reprinted and sold well, especially the novels under his own name. He was translated into meany languages and became a hero of the 68 student revolution for his stance against militarism. L'Ecume des Jours both in French, and English as Froth on the Daydream, became a million seller.
The critic Pierre Kast commented on the author's short life:
"Lucidity, justice of the heart and of reasoning, a penchant for friendship and brotherhood, an absolute lack of selfishness, and a formidable impatience to wear out the multiple talents given to him by a host of gods, have been incarnated in the course of his short and dense existence whose qualities we are just beginning to uncover ."

Tosh // 7:33 PM
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