Allegorical Noir: Boris Vian and the Série Noire (2)

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


Chapter 2 showed how the years immediately following the Liberation of Paris were marked by feelings towards the United States that were not only mixed but deeply ambivalent. The French threw themselves with gusto into American jazz music, crowded into cinemas to watch American films and developed a passion for any book carrying the famous words ‘translated from the American’. At the same time, they resented the presence on French soil of another occupying force, as if the GIs only served to reinforce the shame of defeat and Occupation at the hands of the Germans. There were basically two ways in which the French psyche could deal with these emotions: either, after an initial period of catharsis, these American cultural phenomena could be rejected; or, alternatively, they could be appropriated into French culture. Jazz and France to this day have a special relationship.1 As for noir fiction, Robert E. Conrath has described how it seems designed to transcend national boundaries: ‘The passionate and ambiguous relationship between [France and the United States] has turned the roman noir into a sort of floating signifier for all that was bad in our contemporary society’ (Conrath 1995: 44). With this in mind this chapter examines how French noir fiction of the mid- to late 1940s can be read allegorically, allowing French readers to renegotiate their society and to come to terms with the end of the Second World War.


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  1. 1.
    Excellent recent studies of this relationship include Colin Nettelbeck’s Dancing with de Beauvoir: Jazz and the French (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2005).Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    In addition to the work by Marc Lapprand to which we refer here, we might mention J. K. L. Scott’s ‘Imagined Americas: Boris Vian, Vernon Sullivan and the Franco-American Thriller’ (Cincinnati Romance Review, 17, 1998, 137–47) and Geoffrey Harris’s edited volume of essays, Through the Anglo-French Looking-Glass: Essays in Translating French Literature and Film (New York; Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1996).Google Scholar

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© Alistair Rolls and Deborah Walker 2009

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  • Alistair Rolls

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