Thursday, 14 February 2013

Great War Centenary news from France

One element of the Great War centenary celebrations in France will be a six-episode dramatisation of Maurice Genevoix's Ceux de 14 on channel France 3. The producers are Chantal and Jean-Luc Michaux; casting is taking place at the moment, and filming will begin in April.

Maurice Genevoix served as an officer with 106th Infantry in the battle of the Marne, and in the Eparges, where he was wounded in 1915. His wounds were of such severity that he lost the use of a hand, and after a seven-months' convalescence, was discharged from the Army.

Following his discharge, he produced a series of five fictional works which drew heavily on his own experiences: Sous Verdun (1916), Nuits de Guerre (1916), Au seuil des guitounes (1918), La Boue (1921) and Les Éparges (1921), known collectively under the title Ceux de 14 (ie The Men of 1914).

In his critical bibliography of Great War memoirs, Témoins (Paris, Les Etincelles, 1929), Jean Norton Cru (pp.142-54) accorded Genevoix the highest praise, calling the tetrology 'incomparable' for its honesty and accuracy in describing the front-line soldier's experience (which, for Cru, puts Genevoix miles ahead of Barbusse's Le Feu). Unfortunately, unlike Barbusse, Ceux de 14 does not appear to have been translated into English.

Edit: Bernard Puchulu has produced some wonderful work for a new illustrated edition of Ceux de 14 here. And while you're there, check out the illustrations for Exupery's Vol de Nuit.

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