Morand, Paul 1888-1976
French short story writer, novelist, nonfiction writer, travel writer, poet, screenwriter, biographer, and autobiographer.
A globetrotter, diplomat, and bohemian, Morand specialized in short stories and travel essays and was one of the best-known French writers during the era between the two World Wars. His work evoked the cosmopolitan atmosphere and energetic social life of the postwar period while creating psychological portraits of hedonistic, often disillusioned characters. His witty, fast-paced descriptive prose is rich in imagery and has led some critics to categorize him as a French modernist and imagist. Like several modernist writers, Morand dispensed with transitions between poignant events and images in order to sustain narrative intensity. Despite his immense popularity in the 1920s, Morand had remained largely unknown to Englishspeaking readers until Ezra Pound's translations of two of Morand' s most important works, Tendres stocks (Fancy Goods) and Ouvert la nuit (Open All Night), were belatedly published in 1984. These bold translations elicited excitement among critics, renewed interest in Morand, and introduced Morand's work to a new generation of English-speaking readers. In a review of these works, Richard Sieburth observed, "The Morand of these short stories is still news. . . . [He is] one of the great nomads of 20th-century French literature, racing through the apocalypse with the haste and glamour of an Orient Express."
Morand was born in Russia, the only son of French parents who later established themselves in Paris. His father was a playwright, painter, Louvre curator, and director of the École des Arts Décoratifs. The young Morand was thus introduced to such French and international cultural luminaries as Marcel Schwob, Auguste Rodin, Sarah Bernhardt, Stéphane Mallarmé, Vance Thompson, Oscar Wilde, Frank Harris, Lord Alfred Douglas, and Jean Giraudoux, the latter of whom became Morand's tutor, lifelong friend, and a major influence on his work. From the time he was thirteen, Morand spent summers in England learning English. He undertook studies at the Écoles des Sciences Politiques in 1906 in prepararation for a career in foreign affairs, attended Oxford in 1908, and traveled to Italy, Spain, and Holland from 1909 to 1912. These travels had an important impact on Morand's personality and development as a writer, and he continued to be an avid traveler for most of his life. Capitalizing on his social privilege, Morand served as a cultural attaché to England at the outbreak of World War I, and later became a diplomat and ambassador for the French government; from 1914 to 1918, he lived variously in England, Rome, Madrid, and Paris, there frequenting Dada and avant-garde circles and beginning lasting friendships with Jean Cocteau and Marcel Proust; and he met a Romanian princess, who became his wife. After publishing two volumes of short, impressionistic poems, Lampes à arc (Arc-Lamps) and Feuilles de température (Temperature Records), Morand gained significant praise and attention for his first short story collection, Tendres stocks, and enjoyed tremendous success with Ouvert la nuit, which yielded 100 printings less than two years after its publication and has been reissued many times since. Although Morand was a popular and prolific writer during the 1920s and 1930s, he wrote sparingly after the onset of World War II. In 1958 Morand was nominated to the Académie Française, but was forced to withdraw his candidacy because he had acted as ambassador to Switzerland for the Vichy government of Occupied France during World War II, a role that had caused him to be banished from France. He was eventually elected to the Académie in 1968, at the age of eighty. Morand died in Paris in 1976.
Major Works of Short Fiction
Morand's short stories are products of Morand's wanderlust and reflections of the moral, physical, and spiritual devastation left by World War I. His stories are marked by eccentric characters, fast-paced narration, disorderly descriptions, and unexpected, humorous imagery. Each of the three stories in Tendres stocks, "Clarissa," "Aurore," and "Delphine," describes the experiences of three young women drifting in wartime London, while Ouvert la nuit contains six stories, each set in a different European city and featuring a different female victim of the moral and material disintegration of Europe. Tendres stocks keenly observes the evolution of morality and the relationship between the sexes and Ouvert la nuit unveils exotic and erotic themes. These were portraits of young women whom, as Proust pointed out, "we refused to consider as women before such artists as Renoir, Giraudoux, or Morand brought them to our attention." Fermé la nuit (Closed All Night), considered to be a male counterpart to Ouvert la nuit, similarly portrays the chaotic lives of four colorful men: a German, an Irishman, a Frenchman, and an Asian refugee in London. Morand's other short fiction collections include L'Europe galante (Europe at Love), in which the common themes are love and sexuality; East India and Company, twelve stories written in English and set in the Orient; and Magie noire (Black Magic), a series of stories in which African characters living in Western societies feel compelled to return to their African heritage.
Although Morand's early short stories were praised by such literary figures as Pound and Proust, who wrote a preface for Tendres stocks, Morand's sporadic output after the 1930s contributed to the gradual decline of his reputation as a popular and critically respected writer. His importance in French literature is debated: critics acknowledge his command of style and technique and his descriptive powers, yet several contend that his themes are often superficial, his characters exaggeratedly eccentric, and his observations on cultural characteristics overly generalized. Other critics have pointed to what they consider misogynistic, racist, anti-Semitic, and pro-Nazi themes in Morand's work. Nevertheless, Morand's early stories continue to be regarded as representative of international literary and cultural tastes of the 1920s. George Lemaître, writing in 1938, commented: "Beyond any doubt Morand is the most typical representative and interpreter in French literature of the world of today. . . . His defects and his merits, are they not the defects and merits of the world today? . . . That is why his recording of our ordeals and woes will remain permanently one of the most invaluable and illuminating testimonies of the spirit of our age."
Tendres Stocks [Green Shoots; also published as Fancy Goods] 1921
Ouvert la nuit [Open All Night] 1922
Fermé la nuit [Closed All Night] 1923
*L'Europe galante [Europe at Love] 1925
East India and Company 1927
*Magie noire [Black Magic] 1928
Flèche d'Orient [Orient Air Express] 1932
Les extravagants[The Eccentrics] 1937
Nouvelles complètes. Vol. 1. (short stories, novels, poems, autobiography, and essays) 1992
Other Major Works
Lampes à arc [Arc-Lamps] (prose poems) 1919
Feuilles de température[Temperature Records] (prose poems) 1920
Lewis et Irène [Lewis and Irene] (novel) 1924
Poèmes (1914-1924) (poems) 1924
Rien que la terre [Earth Girdled', also published as Nothing but the Earth] (travel essays) 1926
*Bouddha vivant [The Living Buddha] (novel) 1927
New York (travel essay) 1929
*Champions du monde [World Champions] (novel) 1930
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SOURCE: A preface to Fancy Goods, in Fancy Goods; Open All Night: Stories by Paul Morand, edited by Breon Mitchell, translated by Ezra Pound, New Directions, 1984, pp. 3-12.
[Proust's multivolume novel À la recherche du temps perdu (1913-27; Remembrance of Things Past) is among literature 's works of highest genius. Renowned for its artistic construction, this masterpiece has been widely praised by readers and critics for conveying a profound view of human existence from the perspectives of social history, philosophy, and psychology. In the following excerpt taken from a preface that was originally published in Tendres Stocks (1921), Proust commends Morand's ability to "join things by new relationships" and lauds his portrayal of the women in Fancy Goods, but faults his imagery.]
The Athenians are slow in execution. As yet only three young damsels, or dames, have been given up to Morand our Minotaur ["Clarissa," "Delphine," and "Aurora"—the title characters of the three stories collected in Tendres Stocks]; seven are specified in the treaty. But the year is not yet over. And many unavowed postulants still seek the glorious destiny of Clarissa and Aurora. I should like to have undertaken the useless labor of doing a real preface for these charming brief romances, which bear the names of these beauties. But a sudden intervention forbade me. A stranger has taken...
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SOURCE: "Paris Letter," in The Dial, Chicago, Vol. LXXI, August, 1921, pp. 209-12.
[In the following excerpt, Pansaers places the work of Morand, particularly Tendres Stocks, alongside that of notable modernist artists and writers. ]
Marcel Proust is the neo-classicist, at the opposite pole from Francis Picabia, the extremist, the tumultuous innovator. Oscillating between the two and linking them are Paul Morand on one side and Jean Cocteau on the other, both trying to steer an intelligent course between these two extremes. . . .
In his Feuilles de Temperature M. Paul Morand seemed to place himself very close to the extreme advance guard; he now gives us in Tendres Stocks almost a return to the stable equilibrium, the manner of Marcel Proust. In three studies he depicts three successive states of his being, with assurance and by luminous images. He confesses that he prefers the fanciful Aurore to inconsistent and changeable Clarisse and to disquieting Delphine. His choice could not be otherwise. Imagination, in fact, is the motive force of the advanced literature with which Morand's work may be classed. Thus in his book he accumulates a really tender stock of substantial wealth, from which he complacently produces a fourth person whose name is Paul Morand. All we can do is to wait for the next volume which will undoubtedly assure us of the precise place to be...
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SOURCE: "Paul Morand," in The Reviewer, Vol. III, Nos. 11-12, July, 1923, pp. 932-39.
[In the following essay, Newman declares Morand one of the great prose writers of the early twentieth century, citing many of his short stories as evidence. ]
The book-shops of Paris are not yet so numerous as the cafés and the coiffeurs, but from the celebrated angle of the Boulevard Montparnasse and the Boulevard Raxpail to the Rue des Petits Champs, following the most agreeable combination of the route of the autobus AE and the autobus AF, an eye more easily caught by books than by paint brushes and Brittany beds looks into twenty-nine windows—La Societé Francaise des Ecoles du Dimanche and the stalls along the Quai Voltaire not counted—where the nineteenth century yellow octavos which routed the eighteenth century calf are not yet routed by the green, the white and red, the white and black, of the twentieth century. All of these windows may be supposed, naturally enough, to place in view the authors already most en vedette; and temperamental and topographical remoteness does not prevent the Librairie Le Souderie in the Boulevard St. Germain and Le Divan in the Rue de l'Abbaye from agreeing with the Librarie Stock in the Place du Théatre Francais that their clients will wish to read Le Grand Ecart, by M. Jean Cocteau, and Le Diable au Corps, by M. Raymond Radiguet, the French Scott Fitzgerald;...
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SOURCE: "From the French," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 1123, July 26, 1923, p. 500.
[In the following excerpt from a review of Open All Night, the critic praises Morand's ability to describe his subjects vividly. ]
We should never suspect that we were reading a foreign work but for the imperturbable and un-English gesture with which M. Morand displays [in Open All Night) the aberrations and barbaric follies of civilization. In the "Sixday Night" which evokes the garish excitement of an international bicycle race—the resting teams in their dressing-rooms lit with a search-light so that the public may miss nothing, the thin circle of competitors ceaselessly sweeping round the illuminated track, the odours and manners of the despotic crowd—all is set down with such concreteness and colour that we can recall without fear the ranker pages of the Satyricon. M. Morand's prose is a development of the écriture artiste of the Goncourts as it was intensified by Huysmans. In spite of the difference (due to the fashion of the times) that he insists on seeming casual, there is the same search for the word which shall exactly transmit the sensation, the research for the bizarre in the familiar, and consequently a vocabulary crowded with terms from the workshops and the pavements.
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SOURCE: "Through French Eyes," in More Prejudice, William Heinemann Ltd., 1923, pp. 206-10.
[In the following excerpt, Walkley commends Morand's knowledge and depiction of London, as illustrated in Tendres Stocks.]
[Today] there are French writers who appear to be thoroughly at home among us and to know England "like their pocket." And yet, even with these knowing ones, England seems to assume an unreal, exotic air. I take up a book published by the Nouvelle Revue Française—Tendres Stocks, by Paul Morand—which is a triad of short stories or studies encircling three remarkable young ladies, and I find it crammed with the intimate topography, not to mention the manners and customs, of Oxford and London. Piecing the autobiographical fragments together, you learn that the author was at an English school (where he had to do battle for the national French nightgown against his pyjama'd school-fellows), was in England at the outbreak of war, went to the front, and returned to become an Oxford undergraduate (the indications point to Magdalen). He shows a peculiarly intimate knowledge of Oxford—the after-war Oxford, serious, laborious, that has displaced the pre-war Oxford with its Clarendon dances and its daily Clicquot (but in what college was that?), which in its turn displaced the Oxford of the early Georges, when the students ruined themselves in "turn-outs" and kept mistresses. He knows...
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SOURCE: A review of Open All Night, in The Reviewer, Vol. IV, No. 2, January, 1924, pp. 143-45.
[In the following excerpt from a review of Open All Night, Newman discusses the difficulty of developing a true appreciation of Morand's writing when reading it only in translation.]
For three good reasons, Ouvert la Nuit is a hard book to translate. . . . Unless it is possible to leave more Morand in a translation than [has been done to date] . . . , the descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers will never know why M. Marcel Proust found Tendres Stocks worthy of his languid introduction, or why Fermé la Nuit divided Parisian front pages with M. Poincaré and the Ruhr all of last spring. M. Morand's French is extremely post-graduate French, and even those Americans who once searched the dictionary for all the words in L'Abbé Constantin and Le Voyage de M. Perrichon will find his vocabulary no smaller than Signor d'Annunzio's and probably larger than William Shakespeare's—and constructed almost entirely of words unknown to the Academy's lexicon. The first reason, then, why Ouvert la Nuit is a hard book to translate is that it is a hard book to read. The second reason is that M. Morand had the advantage of an Oxford education, of serving his government four years in London, and of an early admiration for the prose of George Meredith; that one of his...
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SOURCE: "Moralizings on Morand," in The Dial, Chicago, Vol. LXXVI, February, 1924, pp. 184-87.
[Murry is recognized as one of the most significant English critics and editors of the twentieth century. Anticipating later scholarly opinion, he championed—through his positions as founding editor of the Adelphi, and as a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, among other periodicals—the writings of Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Paul Valéry, D. H. Lawrence, and Thomas Hardy. As with his magazine essays, Murry's book-length critical works are noted for their impassioned tone and startling discoveries; such bio graphic ally centered critical studies as Keats and Shakespeare: A Study of Keats' Poetic Life from 1816-1820 (1925) and Son of Woman: The Story of D. H. Lawrence (1931) contain esoteric, controversial conclusions that have angered scholars who favor more traditional approaches. Notwithstanding this criticism, Murry is often cited for his perspicuity, clarity, and supportive argumentation. In the following excerpt, he comments on Morand's moral attitude and use of images in Open All Night.]
From what aspect are we to judge Paul Morand's work? As the thing in itself that is called a work of art? As a book whose astonishing success in France makes it a social phenomenon? As a symptomatic expression of the modern European mind? The material itself admits...
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SOURCE: A review of Green Shoots, in The Bookman, London, Vol. LXVI, No. 392, May, 1924, p. 130.
[In the following review, the critic lauds Morand's powers of observation and feel for language in Green Shoots.]
It is said that Monsieur Morand has been an official at the French Embassy in London. If he served under Cambon they were in one respect in very striking contrast with each other; for the Ambassador, admirable diplomat as he was, did not in his more than twenty years at Albert Gate master more than a few words of our language. Morand has the very soul of it. In these three studies of young ladies who, as Mr. Walkley in his entertaining preface [to Green Shoots] very truly says, are remarkable, he evidently wrote in his own tongue, for we are given the name of a translator. Possibly the rudiments of the language bore him a little, and you cannot be recondite all the time. His mode of writing is not for the groundlings, as everyone knows who has read Open All Night. And there is not a moment of the day or night when his intense powers of observation and deduction appear to slumber. Allusiveness is here and a most diverting method of description. The essence is admitted, but nothing else; and in this little volume there lies more treasure than in a great number of bulky tomes. "Crocodiles with little bellies round and soft like lettuces, brown bears more greedy for the soles of...
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SOURCE: "Two Sophisticates," in The Nation, New York, Vol. CXVIII, No. 3075, June 11, 1924, pp. 685-86.
[Krutch is widely regarded as one of America 's most respected literary and drama critics. Noteworthy among his works are The American Drama since 1918 (1939), in which he analyzed the most important dramas of the 1920s and 1930s, and the essay "Modernism" in Modern Drama (1953), in which he stressed the need for twentieth-century playwrights to infuse their works with traditional humanistic values. A conservative and idealistic thinker, he was a consistent proponent of human dignity and the preeminence of literary art. His literary criticism is characterized by such concerns: in The Modern Temper (1929) he argued that because scientific thought has denied human worth, tragedy has become obsolete, and in The Measure of Man (1954) he attacked modern culture for depriving humanity of the sense of individual responsibility necessary for making important decisions in an increasingly complex age. In the following excerpt from a review of Green Shoots, Krutch compares Morand to the author Ronald Firbank and finds their work humorous and stylish but lacking moral earnestness.]
An elegant searcher after flamboyant decoration and highly piquant sauces, [Ronald Firbank] deliberately betook himself to the British West Indies in search of material, and this story [Prancing...
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SOURCE: "Some French Writers of the Present Day: Paul Morand," in Taking the Literary Pulse: Psychological Studies of Life and Letters, George H. Doran Company, 1924, pp. 231-38.
[In the following excerpt, Collins praises the verisimilitude of Morand's works Tendres Stocks, Ouvert la Nuit, and Fermé la Nuit.]
Monsieur Paul Morand is not only a literary sign of the times in his country, he is a mirror of French mentality. He was more than thirty years old before he published anything and he had been a wanderer in the world. Both his maturity and wanderlust are reflected in his writing. He has no morbidity, no desire to shock, little inclination to instruct, but he has an uncontrollable urge to tell what he has thought, seen or done that he may please the reader and promote his own satisfaction.
"Novels are mirrors walking on a road; sometimes they reflect sunlight, sometimes mud puddles," said Stendhal.M. Morand's stories reflect both, but chiefly sunlight. He is a realist of the school of La Bruyère. . . .
Morand' s characters, like those of La Bruyère, are human; they talk, eat, drink, come, go and struggle to make money like real folks; they rarely overstep the limits of propriety and their conduct never transcends that of real life. His first two books of poems, Lampes à Arc and Feuilles de Température, caused a mild sensation in the...
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SOURCE: A review of East India and Company, in The Saturday Review of Literature, Vol. III, No. 46, June 11, 1927, p. 901.
[In the following excerpt from a review of East India and Company, the critic lauds Morand's narrative technique and judges him a contemporary master of the exotic tale.]
The jacket of this book [East India and Company] promises the reader "bizarre oriental adventures with the utmost ultra-modern European spices." There is nothing in it that can be called "spicy," as that adjective is usually applied to French novels. Indeed, it is in the class of innocuous novels of which the French publishers say, peut être mis entre toutes les mains.
"Bizarre oriental adventures," however, we find, and in good measure. Three ghost stories and four other corking good yarns for which China furnishes a brilliantly sketched background, a gruesome chapter on Malay poisons, stories in which a Spaniard lives as a god on a mysterious island in the Indian Ocean, a Parisian finds the haunted skull of the horse of Ghengis Khan, an Englishman is tricked by a cunning Oriental in the Kingdom of Indrapura, an American girl in Manila is unable to love anyone but herself, two Scotsmen of the same family, but a hundred and fifty years apart, feel the fascinating lure of Tahiti,—these clever and cosmopolitan tales should appeal to readers of all nationalities and all...
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SOURCE: "Paul Morand," in Contemporary European Writers, The John Day Company, 1928, pp. 66-71.
[In the following excerpt from a study written in 1927, Drake compares Morand to the Roman writer Petronius and perceives Morand's work as moral rather than depraved, hut lacking in conviction and depth.]
Anatole France, in a preface much quoted by reviewers, once called Marcel Proust "a depraved Petronius." As much might be said, with much more truth, of Paul Morand, but with this difference: that Morand's talent is by instinct moral, and not depraved. In the collections of character sketches which are his most natural and as yet his most satisfactory expression, Tendres Stocks, Ouvert la Nuit, Fermé la Nuit and L'Europe Galante, we have a long sequence of brilliant clinical notes on post-war European society. His single novel, Lewis et Irène, is little more than an elaboration upon the same theme, in the same manner. Perhaps no living writer has savored more completely than Paul Morand every flavor of contemporary European urban life. Few have absorbed so much, with such accurate perception, and with such superb discrimination. This life he describes, not with the detail of orthodox Realism or the subtle revelation of psychology, but directly, as it is focused in its exceptional characters, and as these appear to him. He gives us the outposts that more sober art has not yet reached....
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SOURCE: A review of Black Magic, in The Saturday Review of Literature, Vol. V, No. 48, June 22, 1929, p.1130.
[In the following review of Black Magic, Valentine assesses Morand's portrayal of Blacks as detached but knowledgeable.]
Paul Morand's attitude towards the negro is typically Gallic in its absence of those prejudices which are apt to enter into our own view of him. [Black Magic] consists of a group of negro studies which gain value from the detachment of their author, and which had their inception in the fascination exerted upon him by jazz. Drawn by the ineluctable urge of the music he traveled over half the globe and visited nearly two score negro countries. The knowledge of negro nature and the occult powers that possess it gained from his wanderings he has set down in this book.
Unstinted pains are not, however, always attended by adequate reward. The voodooism that M. Morand divined lay at the background of jazz largely remained, despite his assiduous efforts to uncover its sources, the mystery it was to him before he set forth on his journeying. What one finds in Black Magic is not an interpretation of voodooism, but merely a vivid dramatization of its effects. However, the volume is not meant to be a scientific exposition of negro thaumaturgics, and perhaps one should not complain if the revaluation of the negro's soul is not what might be...
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SOURCE: "Adventures, Globe-trotters, and Imagists: Valery-Larbaud, Pierre Mac-Orlan, Paul Morand, Jean Giraudoux," in Modern Thought and Literature in France, Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1934, pp. 122-48.
[A French-born American critic and eductor, Michaud specializes in French literature but also has published studies of contemporary American literature and the modern American novel. In the following excerpt, he finds Morand's employment of description and imagery original though tending toward excess.]
[In] 1921 Tendres Stocks [Green Shoots] appeared with a preface by Marcel Proust, a quaint title for three portraits of modern young women in an English setting. Proust, in his preface, pointed adroitly to what already appeared as Morand's qualities and defects. His sketches revealed a clever imagist and a magician, but perhaps he exaggerated the trick to the point of eccentricity. To fight routine he did not hesitate to twist reality and subject it to maquillage, and his methods were those of the cubist painters. Like Clarissa in the book, he preferred artificial flowers and rubber goldfish to real ones, and enjoyed wearing imitation pearls. Travesty and trompe-l'oeil became an artistic process. The world had become too callous, obsolete and ready-made, and it could be renewed only through being deformed and falsified. So it was in his Nuits, the great literary...
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SOURCE: "Paul Valéry—A Post-War Publisher: Bernard Grasset—Paul Morand—Julien Green," in Time Past: Memories of Proust and Others, translated by Françoise Delisle, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1935, pp. 286-303.
[In the following excerpt, Scheikévitch assesses Morand's literary talent and influences.]
It was in the first year of the War, during one of his short stays in Paris, that I met the young diplomat, Paul Morand. It was difficult not to notice a young man so strikingly frank and intelligent, shrewd of judgment, and with a turn of mind so synthetic. His neat and swift way of looking at people, events, and their relations to each other at once gave the impression that he moved only by flying. His gift for gathering together, through comparisons, ideas, facts, elements, and for linking them up by a striking detail, rendered his talk both spirited in delivery and adorned by a vast store of knowledge acquired through insatiable inquisitiveness. He seemed to have opened all doors and scanned all possible horizons. He expressed himself simply, choosing by preference concrete terms. While listening to the working of such an original mind, one wondered what had been his education and in what surroundings he had grown.
His father, Eugène Morand, painter and poet, had, after the fashion of certain symbolists, felt the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites. His vast erudition and his...
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SOURCE: "Paul Morand," in Four French Novelists: Marcel Proust, André Gide, Jean Giraudoux, Paul Morand, 1938. Reprint by Kennikat Press, Inc., 1969, pp. 303-92.
[An Algerian-born American educator and critic, Lemaitre published numerous works on French literature, including From Cubism to Surrealism in French Literature(1941) and studies of the authors Pierre Beaumarchais, André Maurois, and Jean Giraudoux. In the following excerpt, Lemaitre provides an overview of Morand's short fiction and lauds his ability to capture "the spirit of our modern time." ]
[Morand' s] first publications—Lampes à Arc (1919) and Feuilles de Température (1920)—were collections of short poems, most of them referring to circumstances or impressions of the war and the armistice period, many being obviously inspired by Morand's own experiences in England, Italy, and Spain. They all bore the stamp of a fundamental pessimism and of a restless imagination; with their jerky, syncopated style they sounded an unmistakable note of challenge to bourgeois common sense and the rational conception of things. Morand was then in the vanguard of the young artists who thought that the old civilization was dying and that a hard, cold, shoddy, industrial, banal new system was about to take its place. Between the two worlds, one already moribund and the other yet to be born, these young artists were striving to...
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SOURCE: "Chinese Elements in Paul Morand's 'Mr. U'," in Chinese Culture, Vol. V, No. 3, March, 1964, pp. 34-41.
[Knowlton is an American educator, translator, and critic. In the following excerpt, he praises Morand's short story "Mr. U" as an excellent example of Chinese-French literary contact and cites passages that illustrate Morand's detailed knowledge of Chinese culture. ]
There are important French men of letters in the twentieth century who illustrate China's influence on European literature, in the tradition of earlier French writers like Voltaire. . . . Among these an honorable place must be accorded Paul Morand, whose early literary contributions to European fiction of this century have been surveyed by Milton H. Stansbury in French Novelists of Today. Stansbury stresses the cosmopolitanism of Morand, but pays little attention to China as reflected in the novelist's work. The short story by Paul Morand discussed in this paper, "Mr. U," is a brilliant example of the result of Chinese-French literary contact. . . .
"Mr. U" is mentioned as a literary product of Paul Morand's trip in 1925 to the Far East on page 356 of Kurt Jackel's study, "Paul Morand und die Erneuerung des Exotismus in der französischen Literatur der Gegenwart," Zeitschrift für französische Sprache und Literatur, LX,1937. The story exemplifies the hope expressed by William Leonard Schwartz at...
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SOURCE: A review of Fancy Goods; Open All Night: Stories, in Kirkus Reviews, Vol. LII, No. I, January 1, 1984, p. 12.
[In the following excerpt, the critic delivers a harsh assessment of Fancy Goods; Open All Night: Stories.]
Written in 1921 and 1922 by French writer Morand (1888-1976), these sketches of Parisian flappers [in Fancy Goods; Open All Night: Stories] would hardly be a candidate for 1980s rediscovery—if it were not for the fact that they were translated by Ezra Pound; those translations never saw print back in the 1920s but were found in a trunk in Virginia in 1976. And it's not difficult to see why (financial reasons aside) these two groups of stories might have appealed to Pound—considering his interest in the condensation of linguistic imagery. (An example of Morand's prose: "No hollow whitewashed apple tree could avoid bending over water reflecting the clouds, weighted with a boat and the odors of an alcohol lamp.") But Morand's work itself—portraits of seductive, neurotic women—is thin, mannered, recherché; only one story("Borealis," the last piece in Open All Night) has a flavor of comedy and oddness about it—with musings on German nudism adding to the sketch of yet another burstingly interesting young woman. So this is a literary curiosity-item for the most part, complete with Marcel Proust's preface to Fancy Goods—which hardly mentions...
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SOURCE: "The Evils of Modernity," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 4678, November 27, 1992, p. 17.
[In the following review, McCarthy perceives misogynistic, racist, and anti-Semitic themes in the works collected in Morand's Nouvelles complètes.]
This new volume [Nouvelles complètes, edited by Michel Collomb] in the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade contains Paul Morand's early short stories, from Tendres Stocks (1921) to Flèche d'Orient (1932). Since his stories are better than his novels and his early writing better than his later, the Nouvelles complètes contains Morand's best work. His novels are tedious, because he was convinced that the modern world was dazzling but appalling; his characters do not evolve, their dreams die and we no longer believe in them. Morand's talent resembles a brief, penetrating glance, which isolates a fragment but is simultaneously aware of all that it is omitting.
Tendres Stocks consists not even of stories, but sketches: three portraits of women living in First World War and post-war London. The setting is wilfully exotic: American heiresses first with Bolshevik spies in the Café Royal or during the Oxford and Cambridge boat race. The depiction of the fashionable world, in which Morand chose to spend a good deal of his life, was so convincing that several elegant women, among them Nancy Cunard, wondered whether...
(The entire section is 1900 words.)