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Badger Claws

Julian Barnes: Poil de Carotte, 30 June 2011

Nature Stories 
by Jules Renard, translated by Douglas Parmée.
NYRB, 165 pp., £8.99, March 2011, 978 1 59017 364 0
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... I own two photographs of Jules Renard (1864-1910). There is no indication of when either of them was taken, and at times I have wondered if they are really of the same man. In the first, from a series called ‘Nos contemporains chez eux’, he sits at a cluttered desk; behind him is a scruffy bookcase and a calendar showing the first of some month; on the floral wallpaper hangs a looped speaking tube, perhaps for ordering his mid-morning coffee ...

Fearless Solipsist

Anita Brookner, 31 July 1997

by Claude Francis and Fernande Gontier.
Perrin, 439 pp., frs 139, April 1997, 2 262 01224 5
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... truth. Claudine à l’école was published by Ollendorff in 1900. The signature deceived no one. Jules Renard remarked on Willy’s varied talents, including that of female impersonation. Far from being a hirsute monster, as he appears in photographs, Willy was delicate, fallible, more than once caught out by circumstance. His mistresses quickly became ...

Private Sartre

John Sturrock, 7 February 1985

War Diaries: Notebooks from a Phoney War 1939-40 
by Jean-Paul Sartre and Quentin Hoare.
Verso, 366 pp., £14.95, November 1984, 0 86091 087 3
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... Raison, the first, and quite the best, volume of Les Chemins de la Liberté. He reads critically: Jules Romains, whose ‘unanism’ was a strong and damaging influence on the second volume of Sartre’s trilogy; Flaubert, derided for the awkwardness of his style in an early display of Sartre’s ambiguous negativity towards the bel écrit; Gide, admired but ...

Humph, He, Ha

Julian Barnes: Degas’s Achievement, 4 January 2018

Degas: A Passion for Perfection 
Fitzwilliam Museum/Cambridge, until 14 January 2018Show More
Degas Danse Dessin: Hommage à Degas avec Paul Valéry 
Musée d’Orsay/Paris, until 25 February 2018Show More
Drawn in Colour: Degas from the Burrell 
National Gallery, London, until 7 May 2018Show More
Degas and His Model 
by Alice Michel, translated by Jeff Nagy.
David Zwirner, 88 pp., £8.95, June 2017, 978 1 941701 55 3
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... The great​ French diarist Jules Renard (1864-1910) had small interest in non-literary art forms. When Ravel approached him wanting to set five of his Histoires naturelles, Renard couldn’t see the point; he didn’t forbid it, but declined to go to the premiere. He sat through Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande and found it a ‘sombre bore’, its plot ‘puerile ...

‘You have to hang on’

Eugen Weber: Mihail Sebastian, 15 November 2001

Journal 1935-44 
by Mihail Sebastian, translated by Patrick Camiller.
Heinemann, 641 pp., £20, September 2001, 0 434 88577 0
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... On 29 May, on the way to his first lecture, he was hit by a speeding truck and killed. He was 38. Jules Renard was one of Sebastian’s favourite writers. Reading Renard’s diary, the then 28-year-old Sebastian had reflected on the talent and the absurd death of the author of Poil de Carotte. The lines he wrote at the ...

Behind the Gas Lamp

Julian Barnes: Félix Fénéon, 4 October 2007

Novels in Three Lines 
by Félix Fénéon, translated by Luc Sante.
NYRB, 171 pp., £7.99, August 2007, 978 1 59017 230 8
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... infected the way others wrote about him. The biographical note in the Pléiade edition of Jules Renard’s Journal takes up more space than the two entries devoted to him, one of which reads simply: ‘Fénéon’s goatee.’ Mallarmé was a close friend who stood as a character witness at his trial. But here is the poet writing to his near-miss ...

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