January 21, 2010

La Varende and the nostalgia of nobility

Jean-Balthazar Mallard Viscount de La Varende (1887-1959), descendant of an old Norman family, was born in the ancestral castle of Chamblac in the Pays d'Ouches. The year of his birth, his father died and his mother, Brittany, returned living in Rennes. La Varende was raised by his grandfather, the navy Admiral Langle. Unable to be a sailor because of a weak heart, he entered the Beaux-Arts in Paris. Returning from the war of 1914-1918 when he was mobilized as a medic and hospital porter, he moved to the castle of Chamblac. He built a collection of ship models, maintained his property, married and began writing short stories and novels. If he produced a lot, he had difficulties getting published. His first success came in 1937 with the reissue by Plon of Nez-de-cuir, gentilhomme d'amour (Nose-of-leather, a gentleman of love) published the previous year by Maugard in Rouen. La Varende portrayed a Count having a facial injury received during the war of 1814, who became a local Don Juan and fell in love with the only woman who resisted him. With Le Centaure de Dieu (God's Centaur), he won the Grand Prix du Roman of the French Academy in 1938. La Varende built a regionalist but also epic work, full of great heroic figures. He also wrote many historical books. In 1939, while the second war broke out, La Varende lost his wife. He leaved then retired in his castle, publishing short stories in newspapers mostly collaborationists. In 1941, he entered the Academie Goncourt but resigned two years later, avoiding a probable exclusion. La Varende is accused to have sympathy for Nazi Germany. Adamant man, he always maintained his royalist convictions, without compromising himself with the Vichy government. Nostalgic of a bygone era, he wrote about his passions: Normandy, seas and nobility.

Actuellement la librairie Loliée propose les éditions originales suivantes :
  • Nez-de-Cuir, gentilhomme d'amour. Rouen, Maugard, 1936, in-4, demi-maroquin havane à coins, dos à nerfs orné de croisillons dorés, tête dorée, couverture et dos conservés (Huser). Exemplaire sur vergé teinté.
  • Le Centaure de Dieu. Roman. Paris, Grasset, 1938, in-12, broché. Un des 75 exemplaire sur pur fil, celui-ci nominatif.
  • Le Roi d'Ecosse (Provinciale). Paris, grasset, 1941, broché. Un des 13 premiers exemplaires sur Japon impérial.
  • L'Homme aux gants de toile. Paris, Grasset, 1943, in-12, broché. Un des 30 exemplaires sur vélin pur chiffon. Frontispice en camaïeu de Louis-Joseph Soulas.
  • Indulgence plénière. Paris, Grasset, in-12, broché. Un des 52 exemplaire sur Montval.
  • La Dernière fête. Paris, Flammarion, 1953, fort in-12, broché. Un des 145 premiers exemplaires sur pur fil d'Arches, celui-ci tiré pour la société des bibliophiles "Les Amis des Beaux-Livres".