Manuel Devaldes, Contes d'un rebelle
Saint-Martin de Bonfosse : Theolib, 2013, 146 pp; Introduction by Marie-France de Palacio; ISBN: 978-2-365000-62-8.
French literary history considers the short story a minor genre and anthologies rarely go beyond Maupassant, Marcel Ayme, a bit of Merimee and a dash of Balzac. It is therefore all the more refreshing to read this collection of twenty-five short stories, published for the first time in 1925, that proves that other practitioners of the genre have existed apart from the few remembered by mainstream critics. Many of them were anarchists. Manuel Devaldes (pseudonym of Ernest-Edmond Lohy) was a propagandist, pamphleteer, essayist and public speaker. Most of all, he was one of the better-known faces of the neo-Malthusian movement, having published a vast number of pacifist pamphlets denouncing the link between unchecked human reproduction and war. He was a supporter of birth control and eugenics at a time when both were particularly controversial. Devaldes sought refuge in England as conscientious objector during the First World War and translated Herbert Spencer and Bertrand Russell into French. He also published several volumes of fiction, starting in 1897 with the decadent-inspired poetry Hurles de haine d'amour, and ending in 1947 with the 'four tragic tales' of his collection Chez les cruels. His fiction appeared regularly in anarchist and pacifist papers and periodicals such as Le Libertaire, L'Idee libre, L 'En dehors and Le Reveil de l'esclave.
Emile Armand thought that these stories showed 'the writing of a real writer, who is not afraid of audacious thinking, nor of frank expression'. Mostly, that is also the opinion of Han Ryner, who wrote the original introduction to the book, and of Marie-France David de Palacio, who signs a very useful new introduction, presenting the author and analysing his work, its qualities and its limitations. Writing for a proletarian public and with the soul of a propagandist, Devaldes cannot help but stress quite...