Fetishistic Noir: Charles Baudelaire and Léo Malet

  • Alistair Rolls
Part of the Crime Files Series book series (CF)


If there is any consensus that emerges from the literature surrounding noir—be it Film Noir or le roman noir français—it is that the term has been used so frequently, with so many meanings and applications, that it has become almost unusable as a critical term. It is from within this incoherent framework of overuse on the one hand and, in some instances, critical oblivion on the other that a certain number of novels can potentially be considered—for want of a better expression—as classics of French noir fiction. Furthermore, despite, and to a certain extent because of, the difficulty of clearly defining French noir fiction (if noir is anything, it is essentially unclear) or tracing its origins, the readings of these texts will be made against a number of vexed assumptions. Most importantly, the novels examined here do not simply inherit a noir mantle; rather, to borrow from Sartrean discourse, they ‘exist’ noir. In place of the passive attributes of the adjective ‘noir’, our analysis will be underpinned by the more active verb ‘to noir’. It will be shown, for example, how the French noir novel begins ‘to noir’ actively and self-consciously in the period immediately following the Second World War.


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  1. 11.
    Charles Baudelaire, ‘To a Woman Passing By’, in The Flowers of Evil, trans. by James McGowan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), p.189.Google Scholar

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© Alistair Rolls and Deborah Walker 2009

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  • Alistair Rolls

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