In praise of folly : Didier Daeninckx, Caché dans la maison des fous

Morris, Alan (2016) In praise of folly : Didier Daeninckx, Caché dans la maison des fous. [Review]

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Abstract

To launch his new collection, “Sur le fil,” whose aim is to feature “novels in which the destiny of a poet meets History with a capital H,”[1] the publisher and author Bruno Doucey made what was perhaps an obvious decision: as a companion to his own book on Max Jacob,[2] he would invite Didier Daeninckx to pen a work as well. Daeninckx was an excellent choice, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, although he made his name in the roman noir (before extending his range to more mainstream fiction), he has a long-established liking for poetry.[3] Secondly, he has an equally enduring interest in history: well aware that numerous sensitive issues — relating principally to French colonialism, the Occupation, World War I and the Paris Commune — have been swept under the carpet, he has constantly, and provocatively, challenged “official” accounts of the past and their obfuscations. Thirdly and finally, Daeninckx is one of the most successful and visible writers on the contemporary French literary scene, so having him contribute would help to advertise the new series. When approached, Daeninckx readily accepted, and he did not have to look far for his subject. He simply had to turn, as he had in many previous stories, to his own background for inspiration: his grand-father once bought a plot of land — soon to become the family home — from a certain Eugène Grindel, whose son was later to achieve fame as the poet Paul Éluard. Daeninckx knew that, during the Occupation, Éluard had hidden in the asile (asylum) in Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole to escape from the Gestapo. He similarly knew that this particular story (with the resulting production of new poems) was not widely known, which was yet another incentive for him to tell it; so tell it he did.