A little book, not those best-selling heavyweights. Just a little book, ten chapters on the counter, ten short stories written with a scalpel, without erasure, nervous, cruel, lucid. It tells about the prison. It smells of fear, sweat, rancid, shit, vomit. Everything you never want to see or hear. It’s not salon literature, candied literature to make Margot cry in the cottages. Here, between these walls which ooze the hatred of the cop, of the bourgeoisie, of justice, one feels even in one’s flesh this raw pain that only those who are on the other side can feel, out of sight of the ” good ”citizens.
Gold digger, bartender, truck driver
Georges Arnaud (1917-1987), whose real name is Henri Girard, was accused in 1941 of having murdered his father, his aunt and a servant in the family chateau with a billhook. No proof, no motive, an instruction to charge, and a vox populi who feasts on leading to the scaffold this son of a good family with “dissolute” morals. Defended by Maurice Boy, famous lawyer and friend of the family, Georges Arnaud will be acquitted. He will squander the inheritance and, riddled with debt, will leave for the South American continent. He will be a gold digger, a bartender, a truck driver, will hang out in infrequent hovels and frequent all that the earth has bad boys. Return to France in such incredible conditions as his departure. How does he come to writing? Whatever. He publishes his first novel, the salary of fear, in 1950. He has already written Ears on the back and Schtilibem 41.
It’s nervous, dry as a cudgel
In slang language, Schtilibem means prison. The tone is set. Arnaud writes using an almost scholarly slang as it is distilled with panache, thus bringing the blow to a tongue too clean on it to tell the story of prison. The words are surprising, some are familiar to you, others not, but what is essential is a language, a music, a linguistic daring that does not bother with convoluted turns of phrase.
We think of François Villon, Jehan Rictus, Jean Genet, Antonin Artaud.
Not a word too much, not a sentence too much. We are struck by the force of the images, the power of the word. It’s nervous, dry as a cudgel. We think of François Villon, Jehan Rictus, Jean Genet, Antonin Artaud. Pierre Mac Orlan will preface this work published in Mercure from France in 1953. Georges Arnaud will return to prison for his commitment to the independence of Algeria.
The Finitude editions reissued this work some time ago. Rapper Vîrus and musician Akosh were to play at the Maison de la poésie Schtilibem 41. Due to the pandemic, everything has been postponed. You can find video clips of this collaboration on the Net. In the meantime, we can leaf through this book “Sunday / Monday / and Tuesday / and then Wednesday / and then Thursday / and then Friday / and then Saturday / and then shit”.