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This article is taken from PN Review 32, Volume 9 Number 6, July - August 1983.

Rene Behaine C.H. Sisson

IT cannot be said that the work of René Béhaine is well known, either in France or England. Enquiries in what usually pass for well-informed quarters are more likely than not to meet with a blank. It is not that Béhaine does not have admirers, or that he did not from time to time have his modest successes. He was awarded the Grand Prix de la Société de Gens de Lettres for Sous le Char de Kali (1947). One or two volumes were translated into English, the first (Les Survivants) in a version by Edward Crankshaw with an introduction by Ford Madox Ford, Béhaine's chief advocate in the English-speaking world.

Béhaine was born in 1880 and so was some ten years younger than Gide, Valéry and Proust, belonging rather to the generation of Kafka, Joyce, Lewis and Musil. He died in 1966. His first book was published in 1898; his last is said to have been published in 1963, although I have been unable to follow him beyond L'Aveugle devant son Miroir (1958). All fifteen or sixteen volumes are parts of a single work; his first book - the original Conquête de la Vie - was partly incorporated in the main series and the title was used again. The whole was called Histoire d'une Société - as ambitious and boring a title as one could wish for a novel, but no-one should be put off by that. The books are the history of a society, though in ...


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