'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

28 September 2010

Raymond Radiguet

Boy Genius
click to enlarge most photos here
This precocious Parisian youth, born in 1903 was adopted by Jean Cocteau as his temperamental protégé and lover. He wrote his first French masterpiece 'The Devil in the Flesh' at the age of fifteen,  his second novel 'Count d'Orgel's Ball' at nineteen and  died from typhoid at twenty. Raymond Radiguet was cynical, pretentious and brilliant.  
A bad copy of a photo I took off the television decades ago before digital images were available. It shows Radiguet sunbathing naked on the beach.
Jean Cocteau Wrote: -
' Raymond Radiguet was born on June 18th, 1903; he died, without knowing it, on December 12th, 1923, after a miraculous life. The literary tribunal has found his heart arid. Raymond Radiguet's heart was hard, and like a diamond it did not react to the least touch. It needed fire and other diamonds, and ignored the rest. Do not accuse fate. Do not speak of injustice. He belonged to the solemn race of men whose lives unfold too quickly to their close. "True presentiments," he wrote at the end of The Devil In The Flesh, "are formed at a depth that the mind does not reach. Thus they sometimes make us do things that we misinterpret....A disorderly man who is going to die and does not know it suddenly puts his affairs in order. His life changes. He sorts his papers. He rises and goes to bed early. He gives up his vices. His friends are pleased. Then his brutal death seems all the more unjust to them. He would have lived happily." For four months Raymond Radiguet became meticulous; he slept, he sorted, he revised. I was stupid enough to be glad of it; I had mistaken for a nervous disorder the intricacies of a machine that cuts crystal.'
Here are Radiguet's last words:

"Listen," he said to me on December 9th, "listen to something terrible. In three days I am going to be shot by the soldiers of God." While tears choked me, as I invented other explanations: "Your explanations," he continued, "are not so good as mine. The order has been given. I heard the order."  Later, he said: "There is a colour that moves and people hidden in the colour."  I asked if he wanted them sent away. He answered: "You cannot send them away as you cannot see the colour." Then, he sank. He moved his mouth, he called us by name, he looked with surprise at his mother, at his father, at his hands. Raymond Radiguet  left three volumes. A collection of unpublished poems, The Devil In The Flesh, a masterpiece of promise, and the promise fulfilled : Count d'Orgel. One is frightened by a child of twenty who publishes a book that cannot be written at that age. The dead of yesterday are eternal. The author of Count d'Orgel was the ageless writer of a dateless book. He received the proofs in the hotel room where his fever consumed him. He intended to make no alteration to them. His death robs us of memoirs of his development; three short stories; a long appendix to The Devil In The Flesh; Ile de France; and Charles d'Orleans, an historical picture, imaginary in the same way as the false autobiography of his first novel. The only honour that I claim is to have given to Raymond Radiguet in his life the illustrious place won for him by his death.

Raymond Radiguet was born in Saint-Maur, a Parisian suburb, in 1903. He read much and began writing poetry in his mid teens, He abandoned his studies in favour of journalism and to leap into the Parisian literary circles where he mixed with  Picasso, Stravinsky  and Jean Cocteau who became his mentor and lover although their relationship was always difficult. In 1921 he completed 'The Devil in the Flesh' and also published a collection of poems. The first version of 'Count d'Orgel's Ball'  was finished in 1922 and revised in 1923, just a few months after the publication of The Devil in the Flesh and before he died of Typhoid at twenty, on the 12th December 1923 and was interred at Le Pere Lachaise in Paris.

Raymond Radiguet was a prodigy. The precocious boy wrote as if he had the experience of a much older man. However he said of himself:
"These premature prodigies of intelligence who become prodigies of stupidity after just a few years! Which family does not have its own prodigy? They have invented the word. Of course, child prodigies exist, just as there are extraordinary men. But they are rarely the same. Age means nothing. What astounds me is Rimbaud's work, not the age at which he wrote it. All great poets have written by seventeen. The greatest are the ones who manage to make us forget it.

When posed the question "Why do you write?" in a recent survey, Paul Valery answered "Out of weakness."

On the contrary, I believe that it would be weak not to write. Did Rimbaud stop writing because he doubted himself and wanted to take care of his memory? I do not think so. One can always do better. Timid writers who do not dare show their work until they have done better should not find in this an excuse for their weakness. For, in a subtler way, one can never do better and one can never do worse."


 By Modigliani and two by Jean Cocteau

By Picasso
The book 'The Devil in the Flesh' was made into a film in 1986. Described as 'One of the most controversial Italians films of the 80s, DEVIL IN THE FLESH takes Raymond Radiguet’s classic novel and updates it to modern times.' It contains explicit sex, fine acting and is available uncut. It caused a critical uproar upon it’s release due to its highly-charged political and sexually frank subject matter.  

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