Friday, December 19, 2014
I Spit on Your Graves by Boris Vian
(pb; 1946, 1998. Introduction -- titled The Dark Side of Boris Vian -- by Mark Lapprand.)
From the back cover:
"Published in Paris in 1946 as a thriller loaded with sex and blood, allegedly censored in the US and 'translated' into French, J'irai cracher sur vos tombes -- I Spit on Your Grave -- was a pure mystification, but also, a direct homage to American literature and movies, by a young author, Boris Vian (1920 - 1959).
"More deeply, it was also a violent attack on racism by a jazz fan who had already befriended many black musicians and was to become the closest French friend of [Duke] Ellington, [Miles] Davis and [Charlie] Parker. . . "
This hyperbolic pulp-noir genre work is a sometimes fun, way overlong riff on racism, sex and ultra-violent revenge. It is the fevered imaginings of a Frenchman writing about a country he had never actually visited.
Most of the book is comprised of Lee Anderson's first-person point of view, while he gets "revenge" on the white race by bedding every young woman he meets (according to Anderson, every white woman is a slut, just asking for rough sex), fooling those around him into thinking he's white (although he is a half-"Negro" who "passes" for white) by partying with them. At one point, he and a friend rape two twelve-year old children, who -- curiously -- are "Negroes" themselves. (Yes, this is a morally icky book, written, as noted in the back cover description, as an "homage" to the American pulp novels and noir Vian loved.)
The sex -- more euphemistic than explicit -- occasionally spills over into explicitness, especially near the nerve-jangling finish when Anderson achieves his ultimate, lust-murderous revenge on the white race with two women.
Spit isn't a terrible book, but it is considerably longer than it needs to be. If you can get past the hundred plus pages of Anderson's theme-repetitive rants about race, partying and sex, it might be interesting. If you can't, don't pick it up.
The film version of J'irai cracher sur vos tombes was released in France on June 26, 1959. (Note that imdb has erroneously listed it under the title I Spit on Your Grave when it is supposed to be I Spit on Your Graves.)
Michel Gast directed the film from a screenplay by Boris Vian (the book's author) and Jacques Dupagne. The film's credits do not cite Vian's novel as the film's source material. According to many sources, Vian hated the film so much he died of a heart attack while standing up to denounce it at its first screening. (This appears to be true.)
Christian Marquand played Joe Grant (cinematic stand-in for Lee Anderson). Antonella Lualdi played Lizbeth Shannon. Ferdinand Ledoux played Horace Chandley. Renate Ewert played Sylvia Shannon. Marina Petrova, billed as Marina Petrowa, played Sheila. Daniel Cauchy played Sonny. Catherine Fonteney played Virginia Shannon.