(asked by Larry)
I have been reading your site for a few months now and I have a few questions relating to literature that I would like to ask.
1. The works of most French writers are readily available in English but I have been having trouble finding the novels of Alain-René Le Sage, such as Gil Blas and Le Diable Boiteux (Devil on Two Sticks.) Eventually, I was lucky and found some editions that were over 50 years old but it seems that the major publishers of “classic” literature haven’t republished his books too often. Hence, I was wondering about his reputation in his native country. Is Alain-René Le Sage still widely read? Is his work taught in the school system? I absolutely adored the picaresque adventures of Gil Blas when I eventually tracked it down so I would like to know a little more.
You’re asking two very interesting questions here. As they’re very different in nature I’ll answer them in separate posts.
So that was the first one.
And I have to admit that I am more or less stumped here.
Despite the fact that my background in literature doesn’t suck, I’m not familiar with Alain-André Le Sage at all.
The name Gil Blas is definitely familiar, but I have serious doubts about the reasons of that familiarity, as I may be confusing the novel with the 19th Century periodical of the same name and that became famous because it published Zola, Maupassant, Malot and Barbey d’Aurevilly among others.
Yet, the name of Alain-René Le Sage sounds familiar, as well as Le Diable Boiteux. However I really can’t say why. Was it because they were in the high school curriculum for some majors in high school (definitely not mine), or was it because years later, in graduate school, this time as a literature major, a classmate of mine was a big fan and picked this author for their thesis/dissertation? I really can’t tell.
So I guess this answers your question about whether it is widely read.
I wish I could help more (but maybe a reader will be able to).
Now, onto your next question…
I work in a library in the Rhône departement and I realy enjoy literature.
So I can say that even if the name sounds familiar, Alain-René Le Sage is nearly forgotten in France.
for example, we have only one “Gil Blas” for 3 sites (not to speak about 0 diable boiteux).
It has been borrowed only one time during the last 3 years and 9 times since 1997.
Of course it’s only in my library but I think you get the picture.
have a nice day
Thanks for your feedback Olivier. It is very informative indeed.
Olivier is right . Only French people of some age who were really interested in litterature have heard of this author and his books . I bemoan it, but it’s another part of France which fades in the mist of ignorance and loud shouting ( no I don’t think of America only ) .
You must be one of the two Aussies who know Gil Blas aren’t you ?
I must disagree with you here. While, I’ll be the first to complain that the youth of today is uneducated, ignorant and whatnot, authors disappearing like that is a common phenomenon. Many authors are victim of those fluctuations depending on the “fashion” of a time.
Many factors come into play, not always clearly identified ones, but past authors come and go constantly like this.
Take Barbey d’Aurevilly for example. He was almost forgotten a few decades ago (the theory is that the establishment of the time, Sartre and friends, found him way to catholic to be a respected author) and now he’s coming back. Sure, he’s not big, but you can find his books even in paperback editions.
That’s another one of the things that make literature so fascinating, dead authors are more or less dead depending on very contemporary factors, while very often contemporary authors are not respected because of their talent, but because of some very un-literary factors.
Just read about Barbey d’Aurevilly on Wikipedia and found this amusing:
“Barbey d’Aurevilly held extreme Catholic opinions, yet wrote about risqué subjects, a contradiction apparently more disturbing to the English than to the French themselves.”
Phil, yes I probably am!
Thanks for the information, Olivier. It is sad to hear Gil Blas is not widely read - it is a great book. Picaresque novels in general, though, are not popular in this day and age. I guess Tom Jones and Moll Flanders are the only two that are read in the English-speaking world and, even then, they are not particularly popular.
Yes, author rehabilitation can be interesting, David. There is an interesting example in the English world at the moment: Dinah Craik. She was a mid-Victorian writer who penned some “nice” but incredibly didactic works such as the moralising novel, “Olive.” I had never heard of her until a few years ago but now her works are readily available in print once more.
I am not sure why such a “preachy” authoress is suddenly fashionable again (though I must admit I did quite enjoy Olive despite the didacticism.) Sometimes it is a change in overall fashions and sometimes academia can lead to it - if some academic rehabilitates her work and a number of others publish papers in response, it can even spill over into the commercial publishing world.
I knew the title but the only raison I know the text is because one night I coudn’t sleep I watched a tv show which was a reading of the book.