Friday, 2 October 2015

Forgotten Book - Evil Eye

One of the mysteries of crime fiction is why, even today, so few of the crime novels of Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac have been translated into English. This was the duo who gave us Vertigo and Les Diaboliques, yet even when they were in their prime,in the Fifties, a good many of their collaborative novels went untranslated. And try laying your hands on an English language version of their earlier solo efforts...All very odd, for they were marvellous writers. I've featured their work several times on this blog, and today's Forgotten Book is Evil Eye, which Geoffrey Saintsbury translated in 1959.

It's a short novel, and the British hardback edition was bulked out by the inclusion of a novella called Sleeping Beauty, which I'll write about on another occasion (the UK paperback edition did not, I believe,include Sleeping Beauty for some reason.) The hardback is very difficult to find these days. When John Norris reviewed the book on his blog four years ago,(and an excellent and very enthusiastic review it was) I commented that I was keen to track down a copy myself. But I've only just managed to find one.

Was the book worth the wait? Yes, definitely. Boileau and Narcejac never repeated themselves, and yet somehow The Evil Eye is very characteristic of their work - one can't imagine it being written by anyone else. Their stories invariably have a touch of weirdness, and the plot is often so improbable that,in the hands of a less gifted writer, the result would be hopeless. But their work is always very readable.

Here, we have a young man, Remy, who is suddenly cured of his long-term paralysis by a healer. Once Remy can walk again and becomes independent, he becomes increasingly concerned by events in the past, which may in some way have caused the paralysis. The mood is menacing, and yet the reader can't be sure what is going on. The hallucinatory style of Boileau and Narcejac is very well captured in the translation. This isn't my favourite of their work - it's too slight, really, for that -, but it held my interest from start to finish.


John said...

Not their best, I agree, but it has some chilling moments. And the skill with which the two writers turn around the reader's feelings for Remy is impressive. I wish my paperback had also included SLEPPING BEAUTY. I may never get to read that. The only other English translation of this writing duo I'm eager to read is their impossible crime mystery THE TUBE. Have you read that one?

Jamie Sturgeon said...

The Woman Who Was (as 'She Who Was No More') is about to be re-published by Pushkin Press (in their Pushkin Vertigo series)

Martin Edwards said...

John, I'm hoping that you, and others, will get to read SLEEPING BEAUTY. As for THE TUBE, it's on my TBR pile now, at long last - and very near the top!