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This review is taken from PN Review 53, Volume 13 Number 3, January - February 1987.

THE FIRST-FRUITS OF REDEMPTION Emmanuel Bove, My Friends, translated by Janet Louth (Carcanet) £8.95

Without so much as receiving a mention over forty years, Emmanuel Bove has suddenly been restored to favour, even to a kind of cult status, in his native France. His retrieval from obscurity, however, has not proceeded much beyond the recognition that, if amends are to be made, more of his work must become available, and a sharper profile of the man himself must be coaxed from oblivion. Ironically enough, both of these factors can be traced back as far as 1927, and Lucien Kra's request for a biographical note to accompany Un soir chez Blutel. Bove refused to oblige, 'for any number of reasons, not the least of which is a pudeur which precludes me speaking of myself.' Having thus dismissed the idea, Bove characteristically proceeded to demonstrate that 'everything I could say, moreover, would be false', by asking Kra a question in return:


Could anyone resist the luxury of redeeming his life with incidents, spurious depths, the ambition to be a writer from the age of eight, a misunderstood childhood, a scholastic career either very impressive or very defective, a suicide attempt, exceptional prowess in combat, recovery from a fatal wound, imprisonment under sentence of death only to be granted a reprieve on the morning of execution? Best not to begin, I should have thought.


It is something of an impertinence to provide a man with a biography when he is so obviously determined to deny himself one. But ...


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