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The devil in the flesh: A novel

4.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding: 127 pages
  • Publisher: Calder & Boyars (1968)
  • ASIN: B0000CO7R6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,120,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

The Devil in the Flesh is so assured that one wonders how [Radiguet] would have written in maturity.' --The Guardian

'...a triumph of the poetic intelligence: a masterpiece...' --New Staetesman

He belonged to the solemn race of men whose lives unfold too quickly to their close. --Jean Cocteau --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Raymond Radiguet wrote The Devil in the Flesh between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, about his own adolescent love affair with an older woman. He died from typhoid fever at the age of twenty. His only other novel is Le Bal du Comte d'Orgel, also available from Marion Boyars Publishers. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
'What appears dream to others...seems to me to be as real as cheese to a cat- in spite of the glass that covers it. If the glass breaks, the cat takes advantage, even if it is his master who breaks it and cuts his hand in the process.'

Thus our 16 year old narrator begins to explain his affair with the slightly older Marthe during the Great War. Affianced when she first meets her young lover, Marthe nevertheless goes on to marry Jacques, who spends most of the novel away fighting - conveniently for their romance. As the author observes: 'what the war meant for so many of us very young boys - four years of holiday.'

This short (127 page) novel follows their affair and the immaturity of the writer in dealing with an adult situation. Unlike other reviewers, I failed to particularly engage with the lead characters. The true sadness was in the letters from poor Jacques away at the Front, bewildered at his new wife's lack of interest in him - and the way Marthe heartlessly tears up some of these unread. Amazingly well written by a young man between the ages of 16 and 18 - yet left me untouched.
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'The Devil in the Flesh' is the first of two novels written by teenage prodigy Raymond Radiguet before his untimely death from typhoid fever at the age of twenty. Semi-autobiographical, the story charts a tumultuous love affair between a sixteen year old boy and a married woman whose husband is away fighting in the First World War.

The book is inherently nasty, exploring lust and obsession at its most selfish, and yet one cannot help but root for the couple's success. The unnamed narrator's ruminations on love are as profound as they are disturbing and pessimistic. Theirs is an all-consuming romance which is destined to end in ruins. His feelings for Marthe are paradoxical: they are tainted by, or perhaps they inspire, his 'despotic instincts' which drive him to possess and control her both mentally and physically. Whilst she wallows in her contempt for her husband, burning and tearing his unopened letters, he fluctuates between feelings of remorse and a jealous hatred of the cuckolded man. Their affair becomes the scandal of the town - which inspires an amusing scene of black comedy - and all the while, time is steadily marching towards the inevitable: the war can't last forever and the lovers must soon face the consequences of their actions.

Controversial upon its release, this is a book that still retains the power to disturb us today. Set during a time of unimaginable loss and anguish, the protagonists remain selfishly indifferent. The Great War is never depicted first hand and we are barely afforded a glimpse of soldier-husband Jacques - a man who seems to exist in a reality far apart from that of these young and careless people. As the narrator informs us: 'Let those who are already reproaching me try to imagine what the war meant for so many of us very young boys - four years of holiday.'
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By A Customer on 25 Feb. 2002
Format: Paperback
I hadn't heard about Raymond Radiguet before but stumbled across him while surfing amazon and decided to give it a go and i have to say i was not disappointed.
Hard to believe he was only between the ages of 16 and 18 when he wrote this. For his age the talent and wisdom he shows within his writing is pretty remarkable, the characters are extremely well written and the relationship between the two lovers very much believable(he himself had a relationship with an older woman). The story itself has a quick pace and he never stops to mull over unessacery details. The ending is extremely sad and left me with a real sense of loss.
I don't think apart from Le Grande Meaulnes have i ever been moved by a novel quite as much as this.
Not many people seem to have heard of him which is a shame as he produced in my opinion a classic novel of real depth and beauty, you can only imagine had he lived beyond his 20 years what else he would have been able to have produced.
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This is the 1923 novel that was shocking on its debut in France soon after the WW1 because it relates the first person perspective of a typical sixteen year old Francois having the chance of sex with an older, married woman whilst her husband Jacques is at the front. It is based on fact with this version having an introduction and afterword relating the long shadow the events cast over the true relationship between husband and wife after the war.

The story is dramatic and challenging – they are both guilty of lust, love and ‘cease the day’ of the times. It is extremely well written and quite captivating; I got the feeling she really loved the adolescent. The underage sex (for it starts when the schoolboy is 15) may well be a further and more difficult challenge today? It is also interesting how Francois’s father seems to almost promote the affair whilst the rest of society (landlords, neighbours etc) abhor the deceit yet hide it on the husband’s return.

For me the most shocking was not the affair or underage sex but the first quote below-

Quotes
“It was I who dictated the only tender letters he ever received from her. She wrote them against her will, in tears, as I threatened that I would never see her again if she disobeyed. That Jacques should owe his only happiness to me did something to mitigate my remorse”

“The painful thing is not to leave life, but to leave whatever gives it meaning. When love is one’s life, what is the difference between living together and dying together”

“The field shivered in the evening breeze. Our selfish desire succeeded in forgetting prejudice, sacrificing the corn to the comfort of our love as it had sacrificed Jacques”

“Love must offer a great many advantages, since all men entrust it with their freedom”

Brilliant and one of the most thought provoking books I’ve read – 5 stars.
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