#64 = Volume 21, Part 3 = November 1994
Arthur B. Evans
The Fantastic Science Fiction of Maurice Renard
Written during the latter half of that "Golden Age"
of French speculative fiction which stretched from 1880 to 1940, the sf of
Maurice Renard (1875-1939) occupies a rather paradoxical niche in the history of
sf. Not only has it received starkly unequal treatment by literary critics in
the US and in France, but also its highly heterogeneous character tends to
challenge our more modern theories of genre specificity when defining the sf
For example, most European and French-Canadian sf scholars
generally hold the work of Maurice Renard in very high esteem: Versins calls him
"the best French sf writer of the years 1900-1930" (734), another
critic describes Renard’s short stories as "among the most gripping in
French literature" (Bridenne 211), and another notes that Renard was
"the first French author of the genre to see himself cited in René Lalou
and Henri Clouard’s History of Literature" (Van Herp 110). In
contrast, Anglo-American sf critics have to my knowledge never written a
single serious article on Maurice Renard, apart from those brief entries in
various sf histories and encyclopedias.1 Why not? Doubtless in large
part because of the lack of decent English translations of his works. Like those
of many other foreign sf writers, the English translations of Renard are either
non-existent or very poor in quality.2
But it also seems within the realm of possibility to attribute
this lack of scholarship on Renard to another cause. For the average
Anglo-American sf scholar, Renard’s oeuvre itself may prove to be somewhat
disconcerting: as I have argued elsewhere, many if not most of his works reflect
a kind of "fusing together...of speculative Wellsian sf with Hoffmannesque
horror" (259). Modern critics may ask: "Where do we classify such
hybrid fictions? In what historical, generic, or theoretical context do we
discuss them?" Of the major French sf writers of this period—including
Albert Robida, Rosny aîné (the Elder), Gustave Le Rouge, José Moselli, Régis
Messac, and Jacques Spitz—the science-fiction works of Maurice Renard seem to
be the least "pure" in terms of how we have come to define sf.
Reminiscent most often of the tales of Edgar Allan Poe (who had a huge influence
on Renard as a youth), Renard’s fiction seems continually to cross the line
into Gothic horror, mythological fantasy, detective fiction, and the fantastic
First, I will begin this overview of Maurice Renard’s
"fantastic sf" with a discussion of his life and his literary ideas.
Next, I will examine his sf novels (which are, as a rule, more science-oriented)
and his many short-story collections (which are often more supernatural in
content and tone). Lastly and in conclusion, a reevaluation of Renard’s oeuvre
as a whole will be offered, along with a selected bibliography of primary and
secondary works by and about him. In this essay, for the sake of brevity, I will
not discuss Renard’s abundant poetry, his non-sf essays, detective fiction,
historical romances, or other writings which do not directly pertain to sf
Renard was one of many French sf writers of the early
twentieth century who was both a journalist and a prime contributor to the
thriving pulps of the period. But contrary to most, he lived neither in social
obscurity nor exclusively by his pen. The son and grandson of well-to-do
bourgeois attorneys, Maurice Renard was born in Châlons-sur-Marne on February
28, 1875 into a family that was rich in property and well respected in Third
Republic French society. During his pampered childhood he lacked for nothing.
But he frequently managed to chagrin his elders with his unrestrained
impetuosity, his rebellious nature, and his passionate taste for the unusual. It
is said that, in his teens, he one day discovered the tales of Edgar Allan Poe
(masterfully translated by Baudelaire in 1856), and it changed his life forever.
In the words of one of Renard’s biographers:
And all those unbridled fires of his youthful imagination
suddenly find their counterpart in these masterpieces of the Strange by the
American genius. He is swept away...and becomes obsessed with tales of the
supernatural....he reads Hoffmann, the Scandinavian storytellers, Erckmann
Chatrian. From this early age, the literary destiny of Maurice Renard is
But Renard’s subsequent dreams of a career in literature—much
like those of a youthful Jules Verne some four decades earlier—were
temporarily put on hold by his family who demanded that he follow in the
footsteps of his father and become a lawyer. Accordingly, Renard was sent to law
school in Paris where he worked hard, received his diploma, and eventually
entered an established law firm as a young attorney. And it wasn’t until his
mid-twenties, after returning from his required military service, that Maurice
Renard decided to abandon law and consecrate himself wholly to his writing.
Throughout the ensuing years he collaborated in theatrical plays, composed
poetry and poetical essays for a variety of literary journals, became a
seemingly indefatigable feuilleton writer for several pulp magazines and
local newspapers, hosted a "literary salon" in his home (frequented on
a regular basis by the likes of Colette, Montherlant, Henri de Régnier, and
Rosny aîné), and ultimately wrote more than eighteen novels and hundreds of
short stories—in a wide variety of genres—from 1905 until his death on
November 18, 1939.
If Maurice Renard became one of those few French sf writers
who was even minimally "recognized" by the literary elite of early
twentieth-century Paris, he was also notable as one of the few science-fiction
theorists of the period. In several newspaper and journal essays published from
1909 to 1928, Renard sought to explain and to proselytize what he termed le
merveilleux scientifique (the scientific marvelous) and this "new
literary genre" devoted to it which he dubbed le roman
merveilleux-scientifique (the scientific-marvelous novel). During an era
when the only two widely-accepted terms for this sort of writing were the
British "scientific romance" and the post-Vernian "anticipation
novel," Renard’s new nomenclature enjoyed for a time a certain popularity
in France. But perhaps even more intriguing is that Renard’s theoretical
postulations in these science-fiction essays not only predate by many years
similar yet more celebrated efforts in America—e.g., those science-fiction
codifications of Hugo Gernsback et al.—but also seem strangely
prophetic of much more recent 20th-century sf theory. Consider, for example, the
following selection of excerpts from two such essays by Renard: his 1909 article
titled "Du Roman merveilleux-scientifique et de son action sur l’intelligence
du progrès" (On the Scientific-Marvelous Novel and Its Influence on the
Understanding of Progress) and his "Le Merveilleux scientifique et La
Force mystérieuse de J.-H. Rosny aîné" (The Scientific Marvelous
and The Mysterious Force by J.-H. Rosny the Elder) published in 1914.
Incidentally, this is the first time to my knowledge that these essays have been
even partially translated into English.
If it isn’t premature to discuss things at the moment when
they have just come into existence, the scientific-marvellous novel is now
ripe for critical study. The present times permit us to define it. The
inevitable product of an era where science dominates but does not extinguish
our eternal need for fantasy, it is indeed a new genre which has just come
into its own....
I say a new genre. Until Wells, one might well have
doubted it. Before the author of The War of the Worlds, those rare
portrayers of what would later be called the "scientific-marvelous"
did so only from afar, on occasion, and (it seems) as a game. Cyrano de
Bergerac...Swift...Flammarion...Edmond About.... It was Edgard [sic] Poe...who
was the true founder of the pure scientific-marvelous novel, in the same way
as he had invented the detective novel.... He had some famous descendants in
Villiers de l’Isle-Adam who wrote The Future Eve, in Stevenson with Doctor
Jeckyll [sic] and Mr. Hyde, and then finally in H.G. Wells.
With Wells, the genre began to flourish in all its full
So here is a definition, as vague as it might be, but one
with which we must content ourselves until such a time as another, more
precise one emerges from some deeper examination.
How does one generate a scientific-marvelous novel? Where
do its subjects come from and how are they treated? What is the technique of
this new art-form? .... In fact, it is the contemporary literary genre which
is most akin to philosophy—it is philosophy put into fiction, it is logic
dramatized. Born of science and reasoning, it attempts to foreground one with
the aid of the other....
We...search for our novelistic themes either in the unknown
or the uncertain.... We must act exactly like a scientist who seeks to solve a
problem: we apply to the unknown or the uncertain the methods of scientific
This general procedure used to construct the framework of a
scientific-marvelous story can assume an infinite variety of forms. Examples:
we can accept as viable certain scientific hypotheses and then deduce the
direct consequences of them (e.g., life on Mars...War of the Worlds).
We can substitute one idea for another, give to one the properties of the
other...(e.g., give the qualities of space to time...The Time Machine).
We can apply methods of scientific exploration to imaginary objects, beings,
or phenomena through rational analogy and logical assumptions (e.g., a study
of extraterrestrials...[Derennes’] The People of the Pole).... It’s
all about extending science fully into the unknown, and not simply
imagining that science has finally accomplished such and such a feat currently
in the process of coming to be. It’s all about, for example, having the idea
of a time machine to explore time, and not about a fictional protagonist who
has managed to construct a submarine at a time when real engineers are hot on
the trail of such an invention. And I strongly assert that this, in essence,
is what differentiates Wells from Jules Verne.... Jules Verne never wrote a
single sentence of scientific-marvelous....
The influence of the scientific-marvelous novel on [our]
concept of progress is considerable. Being forcefully convincing by its very
rationality, it brutally unveils for us all that the unknown and the uncertain
perhaps hold in store for us.... It opens up for us an immeasurable space
outside of our immediate sense of well-being.... It fragments our habitual
lifestyle and transports us to other points of view outside of ourselves.
("Du Roman merveilleux" 1205-13)
In so doing, the scientific-marvelous novel exerts a very
valuable influence on our thought processes. In imagining what might or can
happen, we better conceive what is happening; in visualizing what can be...we
see more clearly what is....
When we close a scientific-marvelous novel after reading
it, when our eyes turn away from this magnifying lens of conjecture (the only
one we can apply to the immense unknown), we do not see things in the same
way. The fiction has created in us a feeling of alienation. ("Le
Although his use of the awkward portmanteau phrase romans
merveilleux-scientifique (scientific-"sense of wonder" novels)
would prove to be a rather unfortunate choice of terms and did not catch on,
Renard nevertheless exhibits an astonishing level of prescience in identifying
what science fiction is, where it came from, and how it is distinct from other
literary genres. In his discussions of sf’s generic ancestors, his assertion
that true sf is about "extending science fully into the unknown,"
his explanation of the essential difference between Verne and Wells, and his
reader-response descriptions of the psychological effects of science fiction,
Renard appears to be an sf theorist well ahead of his times.
The publication of Renard’s first sf novel in 1908, Le
Docteur Lerne (Doctor Lerne), gained him rave reviews and launched him into
the limelight of Parisian literary circles. Although strongly derivative of
Wells’ The Island of Dr Moreau (1896)—an influence openly
acknowledged by Renard in his dedication—Le Docteur Lerne extrapolates
the notion of biological engineering much further than Wells, all the way into
the fantastic. After years of experimentation in grafting animal parts to plants
and vice-versa (producing at times some quite amazing results), Dr. Lerne begins
interchanging brains between animals, between humans, and even between animals
and humans. As a result of these experiments, he ultimately learns how to
project his own mind and spirit into other animate (and not-so-animate) objects
like people, trees, and even an automobile. The narrative itself is recounted in
the first person by Dr. Lerne’s visiting nephew Nicolas: he gradually (in
detective-like fashion) uncovers the truth of his uncle’s experiments, and his
reactions to them range from morbid curiosity to outright horror.
Part of the originality of the tale, however, is not in the
sometimes outlandish plot sequences, but in the manner in which they are told.
The originality of this novel is two-fold: in its sf eroticism,4 and
in how it portrays the mind-body split through narrative point of view. One
example: Nicolas is forced to have his brain exchanged with that of a bull.
Following the surgery, the young man must now struggle to acclimate himself to
the alien: not only to his new bovine body and instincts, but also to seeing his
old self as the "other"—especially when the latter makes overtly
sexual advances toward "his" mistress. Another example: later in the
text, after receiving his own brain back again, the narrator is in the throes of
a steamy sexual interlude with his aforementioned mistress when he suddenly
feels the presence of another person’s identity intruding into his mind and
taking over his body: it is Dr. Lerne who, gazing through a peephole nearby,
decides to become a more-than-first-hand observer to the proceedings. Such
risqué subject matter and offbeat points of view in Le Docteur Lerne—continually
oscillating as it does between the vicarious and voyeuristic—make it a quite
original sf text and one that foreshadows other erotic science-fiction works by
writers like Philip José Farmer, Robert Silverberg, and Kate Wilhelm published
over a half century later.5
Of course, if one were to judge Renard’s Le Docteur Lerne
from its only-available English translation, New Bodies for Old, one
would never have the opportunity to read such passages. They are not there. In
fact, this translation seems to aptly exemplify the marketplace strategy known
as "bait-and-switch." On its intentionally provocative dust jacket,
after the title "Maurice Renard’s Startling Novel, New Bodies for Old
or The Strange Experiments of Dr. Lerne," the publisher chooses to
quote the most enticingly suggestive portions of the author’s dedication to
Wells: "When Fortune...allowed me to discover the subject of this
allegorical novel, I felt bound not to set it aside because of a few audacities
which a faithful rendering involved. Far from desiring to arouse...instinct in
my reader and amuse him with scandalous descriptions, my work is addressed to
the philosopher...." But when one then reads the actual narrative, one
discovers that all such "audacities" and "scandalous
descriptions"—i.e., all passages of sexuality like those I have discussed—have
been thoroughly and meticulously excised. Despite its cover’s subtle promises
of titillation, the content of Renard’s book has been truncated so as not to
offend its anglophone audience’s supposed sense of moral propriety.
Renard’s next novel, Le Péril bleu (The Blue Peril)
published in 1911, is perhaps his most consummate work of sf and, according to
one critic, "still reads as well as when it was originally published"
(Jakubowski 415). Although never translated into English, it may well have been
the inspiration (by way of Charles Fort) of other such
Earth-unknowingly-occupied-by-superior-aliens sf stories like Eric Frank Russell’s
Sinister Barrier (1939).6 Once again, the originality of
Renard’s text lies in its unusual perspective. The Sarvants, an
ethereal alien race, explore what for them is an vast ocean covering a new
world: they bring up unusual specimens of those indigenous life-forms living in
its depths; their scientists study them, dissect them, classify them, preserve
them, and exhibit them in museums; and it is only by accident that they
eventually discover that these subaqueous creatures are capable of both
suffering and rational thought. And so, magnanimously, the Sarvants
decide to cease their experiments: i.e., they no longer "fish" for
these odd two-legged mammals in the thick atmospheric seas of the planet Earth. Le
Péril bleu is thus noteworthy not so much in its portrayal of the possible
existence of superior alien life in the universe, but rather in its early anti-anthropomorphic
treatment of this traditional sf theme. In the words of one human
protagonist from this novel:
"How foolish we are! Pitiful beings submerged in a
gaseous ocean who think themselves the masters of Earth! Not even suspecting
that another species, much more advanced than ourselves, not only exists above
us but is hardly even aware of us! Another species who gives us as much credit
for intelligence as we give to crabs!" (§11:195-96).
In 1920 Renard published what would prove to be his most
popular and most translated novel: Les Mains d’Orlac (The Hands of
Orlac, 1929). Easily recognizable to most readers and movie-goers of the
sf/horror genre, it is the tale of a celebrated pianist who loses his hands in a
train wreck, has them surgically replaced with those of an executed murderer,
and later begins to assume the personality of his appendages’ psychopathic
donor. The book was made into a movie on several occasions: the two most famous
being the one in 1926 by Robert Weine (creator of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari)
with Conradt Veidt as Orlac, and the one in 1935 by Karl Freund with Peter Lorre
in the title role (inexplicably titled Mad Love). And Hollywood’s
apparent fascination with this theme has continued over the years in low-budget
thrillers based—albeit often very loosely—on Renard’s original premise:
e.g., The Beast with Five Fingers (1946, also with Peter Lorre), The
Hands of a Stranger (1963), and even the more recent Body Parts
(1991, with Jeff Fahey).
One interesting side-note to Renard’s Les Mains d’Orlac
is the fact that the surgeon portrayed in the novel, a certain Dr. Cerral, was
patterned on a real French surgeon of great renown during the early 1900s. His
name was Dr. Alexis Carrel (1873-1944) and his experiments with biological
transplants and grafting procedures earned him the Nobel Prize in 1912. Both Le
Docteur Lerne and Les Mains d’Orlac thus closely reflect Renard’s
awareness of and interest in the scientific advances of his time—especially in
the areas of biology, psychology, and physics—which he then directly
transposed into much of his sf fiction. Renard seems to have been particularly
obsessed by altered modes of human perception: how certain physiological
modifications to the human body would allow one to more fully experience the
"beyond." And his next novel, L’Homme truqué (The Altered
Man), is yet another case in point.
Published in 1921, Renard’s untranslated L’Homme
truqué was no doubt partly inspired by two authors whose sf works he both
knew well and admired greatly: Wells’s "The Remarkable Case of Davidson’s
Eyes" (1895) and Rosny aîné’s "Un Autre monde"(1895,
"Another World," 1962). In contrast to these stories, however, Renard’s
protagonist is a WW I French soldier named Jean Lebris fighting near Strasbourg
who, after being blinded by an exploding cannon shell and captured by the enemy,
is taken to a top German scientist called Dr. Prosope who is conducting advanced
ophthalmological research. Lebris is fitted with experimental electroscopic
eyes which allow him to perceive things far beyond the normal spectrum of
human vision. In addition to its strange effects of synesthesia
("seeing" sounds, smells, etc.), his artificial eyes now enable him to
see electricity, magnetic fields, the movement of the wind, and all forms of
radiation, among other things. Unfortunately for Lebris, these new powers
ultimately prove to be a curse because he is unable to block out such visions.
And, after continually observing what appear to be invisible, electric beings
who coexist—unknown to humanity—on the same plane with us, he eventually
falls into a coma and dies.
As is the case with most of Renard’s sf tales, L’Homme
truqué is configured as a kind of mystery story, narrated in the first
person by a physician and friend of the central character. But its technological
novum—extending the human senses via the implant of some high-power
prosthetic device—was to become a staple of much pulp-era science fiction
during the 20s and 30s. For example, one such sf work (which was probably a
direct spin-off from Renard’s novel) was Alexander Beliayev’s
"Invisible Light" (1938)7 in which a blind man is fitted
with artificial eyes and is then able to see electricity. On a more somber note,
Renard’s L’Homme truqué also foreshadows certain physiological
experiments conducted in Germany during the Second World War in that infamous
period of human brutality which we now call the Holocaust.
Renard’s most detective-like sf narrative—perhaps
patterned on Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue—was published in
1925 and carried the title Le Singe (curiously translated as Blind
Circle, 1928). It was co-authored with Albert Jean and, like most of Renard’s
fiction, originally appeared in feuilleton format (in 62 episodes) in a
Parisian pulp journal. Its plot concerns a police investigation of the
mysterious presence of multiple dead bodies—all of the same person, a
certain Richard Cirugue. After innummerable twists and turns in the narrative,
the mystery is finally solved: Richard is actually still alive. Using his recent
discovery of an electrolysis procedure to duplicate (but not animate) animal and
human tissue, he had fabricated lifeless clones of himself and scattered them
around Paris as a publicity stunt to attract investment capital for his
scientific research. In an even more bizarre twist, Richard subsequently dies
(for real) but his spirit manages to survive and ultimately inhabits the cloned
body of his brother, whose wife he lusts after. Needless to say, apart from its
somewhat Frankenstein-like motif of creating synthetic bodies out of a chemical
vat, Le Singe is less a science-fiction novel than, as one critic has
said, a "comedy of manners, sex, [and] mystery in the manner of Gaston
Leroux" (Bleiler, 620).
Much more interesting is Renard’s 1928 untranslated Un
Homme chez les microbes (A Man Among the Microbes), a witty sf novel which
predates by almost three decades Richard Matheson’s more celebrated The
Shrinking Man (1956; filmed 1957 as The Incredible Shrinking Man).
Although not the first to make use of this traditional sf theme,8
Renard nonetheless succeeds quite well in combining the lighthearted tone of
early imaginary voyage and plurality-of-worlds narratives with the realistic
observations of more modern fictional variants. One witnesses vestiges of the
former, for example, in a visit to the invisible utopian realm of Ourrh (with
the requisite "estranging" descriptions of the life and customs of its
antennaed inhabitants) and in the large doses of tongue-in-cheek humor that are
present in the text (repeated literary and sometimes self-referential plays on
words, Voltairian satire, libertine innuendo, and a general playfulness in
characterization). Of the latter, one witnesses such elements as detailed
portrayals of altered perceptions during the shrinking process itself (gigantic
house furniture, being stalked by the family cat, etc.), fears of the unknown
("How would all this end? Where would this shrinking take him? Would he
simply vanish into nothingness?" [§6:64]), and various scientific
observations on the passage of time in microscopic versus macroscopic worlds,
the functions of the thyroid and pineal glands, etc. The final result is, in the
recent words of one pair of literary scholars, "a journey into the
microcosm with more sophistication and verbal wit than those of Ray
Cummings" (Clute/Nicholls, 1003).
What’s more, the quintessentially surrealistic conclusion of
Renard’s Un Homme chez les microbes is one of the most surprising of
any sf novel. The hero, Fléchambeau, has finally returned to his normal size,
has completed the account of his adventures, and has gently fallen asleep in the
presence of his philosopher-scientist companion, Pons. The latter begins to
meditate on the moral implications of what he and his friend have experienced.
The novel then concludes:
"Puppets," murmured Pons. "We are but small,
helpless puppets that a philosophical author makes dance on a plate. With one
breath he can blow us into the dust of the void."
The wind then began to rise, growing into a strong gale.
Pons looked over at the bed. Fléchambeau was no longer
there. Everything was shaking from the powerful gusts. The village of
Saint-Jean-de-Nèves and its neighboring mountain, carried I know not where,
were swept away like straw at the mercy of the tempest. A mysterious mouth was
blowing on the entire decor as well as on these little fellows that a
whimsical hand had earlier shaped. As if to confirm to himself his opinion
that he was, in truth, nothing at all, Pons began to exclaim:
"Just as I was saying!"
But the author had already removed from him all voice,
movement, and thought. THE END (§9:192-93)
Having evoked in this unusual narrative elements of the 17th
and 18th century utopian novel, characteristics of 19th century realism, and
references to early 20th century physics, Renard now concludes his fictional
"microscopic" sf journey in a manner closely comparable to the most
meta-recursive novels of post-modernism. In light of this comically
self-referential finale, its seems apparent that the real "Man Among the
Microbes" of this tale is the author himself grappling with his own
Renard’s final sf novel, Le Maître de la lumière
(The Master of Light), also as yet untranslated, was published in serial format
in 1933. It was later reprinted in volume format, posthumously, in 1947.
Somewhat similar to his earlier novel Le Singe, it is an odd and rather
eclectic mixture of soap-opera romance, family vendettas, detective-cum-Gothic
horror, and adventure, with just enough scientific speculation to be classified
(marginally) as sf. The plot takes place in 1929-30 and revolves around the
murder, a century earlier, of a Napoleonic navy officer named César Christiani
during the unsettled times immediately following the July Revolution. Charles
Christiani, his descendant and the young hero of the story, eventually comes to
discover the identity of the true murderer of his great grandfather with the aid
of a special plate of glass that had originally hung in the window of the
deceased’s home. This mica-like glass, brought back by César from the jungles
of an uncharted Indonesian island, possesses the unusual property of reflecting
the images of events occurring long before. The scientific principle behind this
"slow glass"9 is explained as follows:
"These window panes are of a composition through which
light is slowed down in the same way as when it passes through water... You
know well, Péronne, how one can hear more quickly a sound through, for
example, a metal conduit or some other solid than through simple space. Well,
Péronne, all this is of the same family of phenomena! Here is the solution.
These panes of glass slow down the light at an incredible rate since there
need be only a relatively thin sheet to slow it down a hundred years. It takes
one hundred years for a ray of light to pass through this slice of matter! It
would take one year for it to pass through one tenth of this depth." ...
...There exist many studies and many technical treatises
about this substance that Charles Christiani had just discovered, or rather rediscovered,
and which he baptised "luminite".... Let us simply remember
that luminite...is a material which produces the following result:
light passing through it is greatly slowed down, and one can thus
actually witness the past. The thicker the glass, the more distant the past.
Needless to say, with the help of this glass composed of
"luminite," Charles manages to dispel the local superstitions about
ghosts in his ancestral home, to clear his family name, to win some celebrity
for himself in the scientific community, to identify the real culprit of the
crime (who just happens to be the great grandfather of his rival), and finally
to marry his sweetheart.
Unfortunately, the latter years of Maurice Renard’s life
from 1930 to 1939 were consumed with writing "popular" novels of this
sort—the result (among other factors) of sudden finanical and emotional
upheavals in his personal life during the decade prior to his death.
Fortunately, however, he is not remembered for them. Even more than for his
several sf novels described above, Renard’s literary reputation is founded on
his many short stories which most often portray the darker and more mysterious
sides of the fantastic.
Renard published six major collections of short stories during
his lifetime: Fantômes et fantoches (Phantoms and Puppets, 1905, cited
in what follows as FF), Le Voyage immobile (The Stationary Voyage,
1909, VI), Monsieur d’Outremort (Mr. d’Outremort, 1913, MO),
L’Invitation à la peur (Invitation to Fear, 1926, IP), Le
Carnaval du mystère (The Carnival of Mystery, 1929), and Celui qui n’a
pas tué (He Who Did Not Kill, 1932). In addition, a posthumous collection
from those hundreds of short stories originally written by Renard during the 20s
and 30s for the Parisian daily newspaper Le Matin (The Morning),
amusingly called Mille et un Matins (Thousand and One Mornings, MM),
appears as one section of the Renard omnibus volume, Romans et contes
fantastiques (Fantastic Novels and Stories, 1990).
As one scholar has observed: "It is dangerous to attach
narrow labels to the works of Maurice Renard which are, most of the time, a
mixture of fantasy, the supernatural, science fiction, and detective
fiction" (Baronian 176). And this is perhaps nowhere better exemplified
than in Renard’s many short stories which range in time from the prehistoric
to the prophetic, in style from the baroque to the burlesque, and in subject
from the mythological to the pathological.
The "purest" sf in Renard’s shorter works can be
found in certain extrapolative stories like his 76-page novella "Le Voyage
immobile" (1908 [VI], The Flight of the Aerofix, 1932). Giving
material substance to certain imaginary voyages like those expressed by
Fontenelle in his Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes (1686, Conversations
on the Plurality of Worlds, 1715), Renard proposes an experimental
anti-gravity flying machine called an "aérofixe" which, by remaining
stationary in the sky, "moves" from one location to another as the
Earth spins below it. Another short story "M. d’Outremort, gentilhomme
physicien" (1913 [MO], Mr. d’Outremort, Gentleman Physicist),
portrays a deceptively gentle scientist who, in his family castle, conducts
experiments in telemechanics, described as "the science of operating
machines at a distance, without connecting wires, and exclusively by the
manipulation of hertzian waves" (456). When ferociously attacked by his
town’s superstitious villagers, he activates—with his remote control—the
family roadster (now specially equipped with scythe blades) and massacres them
without pity. Finally, Renard blends black humor with extrapolative science in
"La Grenouille" (1926 [IP], The Frog), where a physics teacher
succeeds in giving his dead mother the semblance of life by applying the
electric-shock procedures of Galvani to her corpse.
True to his strong interest in varying modes of human
perception, Renard also wrote many short stories which foreground the dual
themes of invisibility and mirrors. For example, in a satirical critique of
Wells’ The Invisible Man, Renard’s humorous "L’Homme qui
voulait être invisible" (1926 [IA], The Man Who Wanted to be
Invisible) attempts to set the record straight: human invisibility necessarily
creates total blindness in its recipient. In Renard’s tale, a certain
eccentric scientist named Patpington believes that he has invented an
invisibility machine; he activates it, becomes temporarily blind, and, believing
himself now to be invisible, promptly engages in all sorts of untoward behavior
like walking around nude in his in-laws’ house. The "humor" in this
story (similar to that in The Emperor’s Clothes) revolves around the
fact that the machine didn’t work, and Patpington remains perfectly visible to
his friends who kindly accomodate his eccentricies.
In another variant on the invisibility theme published several
years earlier, Renard’s "L’Homme au corps subtil" (1913 [MO],
The Man with the Etherized Body) portrays a scientist named Bouvancourt who has
also invented a machine to produce temporary invisibility—but in so
"etherizing" his body, he now tends to pass through the objects
around him. As the plot unfolds, an evil scoundrel forces Bouvancourt to make
him invisible (to better perpetrate his felonious deeds), and Bouvancourt
reluctantly agrees. Once the operation is complete, however, the latter promptly
falls to the center of the Earth: throughout all his experiments, Bouvancourt
had never "etherized" his own shoes. Now finally
realizing the fatal potential of his invisibility machine, Bouvancourt decides
to destroy it. Renard’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek treatment of his fictional
hero in this story becomes even clearer when one realizes that, in an earlier
short story appropriately called "La Singulière destinée de Bouvancourt"
(1905 [VI], The Strange Destiny of Bouvancourt), this same character
supposedly discovers a way to enter a mirror, becomes a prisoner within a world
of reflections, and ultimately dies. Thus, through his unexpected
authorial reincarnation of Bouvancourt several years later, Renard appears to be
deliberately adding to his fiction yet another paradoxical twist to the
recurring presence of the visible/invisible motif.
Finally, two other Renard narratives which belong to the
science-fiction category are his prehistoric tales: the novella "Les
Vacances de M. Dupont" (1906 [VI], Mr. Dupont’s Vacation) and the
short story "Le Brouillard du 26 octobre" (1913 [MO], The Fog
of October 26th). In the first, a recently discovered cave in southern France is
found to contain huge dinosaur eggs. Due to a variety of climatic and geologic
factors, they have been perfectly preserved. The eggs unexpectedly hatch, and
the giant sauriens promptly wreak great havoc not only on the surrounding
countryside and on the palentologist studying them, but also on the
mild-mannered Dupont who had ironically decided to be spend a quiet vacation on
his friend’s rural estate. In the second story, a strange and unnatural fog
suddenly envelops a geologist and a botanist while they are working near the
Ardennes forest. When the fog lifts, they realize that they have been
inexplicably projected back millions of years to the Earth’s Cenozoic era.
They begin to explore and eventually encounter a tribe of winged
prehistoric apes—a branch on the evolution tree never before suspected by
modern Science. Suddenly attacked, the two scientists are forced to shoot one of
these creatures who, before dying, grabs a gold pocketwatch dropped during the
fracas. The eerie fog then returns, and the scientists find themselves back in
the 20th century once again, wondering if their experience had been some sort of
strange hallucination. But nearby they come across the ancient remains of an
anthropoid skeleton with a bullet hole in its skull and a fossilized gold
pocketwatch grasped in its bony fingers. While Renard dedicates this latter tale
to Edgar Allen Poe and his "Tale of the Ragged Mountains," it also
seems largely derived from his friend Rosny aîné’s prehistoric "La
Contrée prodigieuse des cavernes" (1896, The Extraordinary Land of the
Caverns), a lost-world narrative portraying a civilization of humanoid, highly
intelligent vampire bats.
Within the (admittedly) very broad category of
fantastic/horror and fantasy fiction, Renard’s narratives seem to touch upon
almost all the basic ingredients. For example, recalling in many ways stories
like Poe’s "The Masque of the Red Death," there are highly baroque
tales of plague and murderous courtly intrigue like "Mystification" (n.d.
[MM], The Hoax), "Le Lapidaire" (1905 [FF], The Gem
Cutter), "Le Balcon" (1926 [IA], The Balcony), and "L’Affaire
du miroir" (1926 [IA], The Mirror Affair). There are stories about
new species of ocean life, like "Le Requin" (n.d. [MM], The
Shark) in which mutated sharks have learned to hunt in packs, and like
"Jeff le scaphandrier" (n.d. [MM], Jeff the Diver) where an
undersea diving machine suddenly seems to take on a life of its own. There are
stories of strange extrasensory phenomena and hynotized zombies like "Un
Mirage" (n.d. [MM], A Mirage) where the ghostly image of the Eiffel
Tower materializes before the eyes of a French paysan who later learns
that his son, at that exact moment, had leapt to his death from the heights of
this Parisian monument, and like "Le Rendez-vous" (1908 [VI],
The Appointment) where—in "Valdemar" fashion—a woman mesmerized to
show up for a weekly rendezvous of illicit lovemaking, suddenly dies and is
buried, but persistently returns from the grave each week at the appointed hour
(much to the horror of her ex-lover, who cannot escape her). There are many
tragic-misunderstanding stories like "L’Ogre" (n.d. [MM], The
Ogre) where a young girl murders a kindly old man because she believes him to be
an ogre, like the one in her favorite fairy-tale. There are stories of
mythological fantasy, like "La Mort et le coquillage" (1907 [VI],
Death and the Shell) where a musician puts his ear to a conch shell, is
captivated by the strange ocean sounds he hears within it, and promptly dies for
having listened to the voices of the Sirens, and like "La Cantatrice"
(1913 [MO], The Soprano) where a mysterious young opera singer with an
incredibly lovely voice turns out to be a captured mermaid. And there is even
one rather self-reflective story which targets the rapport between the writer of
fiction and his own creations, "La Fêlure" (1905 [FF], The
Crack), where a paranoid novelist meets in person his own fictional villain and
must quickly erase a chapter in his book to avoid being murdered himself.
But it is in the time-honored genre of ghost stories that
Renard’s versatility and imaginative breadth is best illustrated, ranging from
his Sherlock Holmes-like accounts of the deductively dismissable to his
terror-filled tales of the palpable but inexplicable. For example, in his
detective story "Le Spectre photographié" (n.d. [MM], The
Photographed Ghost), snapshots taken inside a supposedly haunted factory clearly
show a skeletal phantom roaming the premises; but they are finally discovered to
be simply those of a local burglar whose was photographed by an automated
security-system camera erroneously wired to an X-ray machine. In a more
spiritualist mode—patterned on the well-publicized efforts of both Edison and
Houdini to contact the dead10—Renard’s "Aux Ecoutes des
ténèbres" (1926 [IA], Listening to the Shadows) portrays a World
War I soldier who receives a long-distance telephone call from his comrade at
the front, only to learn that his friend had been killed days before. In the
traditional Gothic vein, empty yet sentient suits of medieval armor and
mysterious whispered voices are found in the "Château hanté" (1913 [MO],
Haunted Castle). In the romantic and sentimental ghost story titled "Au-delà"
(n.d. [MM], Beyond) a young widower has difficulty getting over the loss
of his spouse, until he is consoled by his dead wife’s spirit. And even the
legend of the ghost ship known as The Flying Dutchman has its Renardian variants
in stories like "Brouillard en mer" (n.d. [MM], Fog at Sea),
where a fatal collison on a fog-bound sea is averted by the sudden astral
materialization of a sister ship which had sunk years before in that exact same
location, and like "La Damnation de ‘l’Essen"’ (1926 [IA],
The Damnation of the "Essen"), where a satanic German captain and his
murderous ship are transmuted into the spectral realm where, as the Devil’s
emmisaries, they can now stalk the high seas forever.
As most readers will immediately surmise, a great many of
these short stories by Maurice Renard have been continuously recycled by authors
of speculative fiction since the early decades of the 20th century. Some of them
have become films or individual episodes on American television shows like The
Twilight Zone, Tales from the Dark Side, and Tales from the Crypt.
I have outlined here only a representative sample of Renard’s total short
story output; a detailed intertextual analysis of literary and cinematic
borrowings from them would necessarily require much more space than can be
afforded in this brief introductory article.
But two facts seem clear. First, if current Anglo-American
science-fiction scholarship is to ultimately move beyond its own restrictive
ideological and logocentric boundaries, it is imperative that more (and better)
translations become available of foreign-language sf authors like Maurice Renard.
Secondly and lastly, in the evolution of the sf genre, Maurice
Renard’s place is an unusually polyvalent and trans-historical one. As one
critic has observed, he "is at the junction of two eras" (Fauchereau,
25). I would go one step further and describe Renard’s works as the bridge
between two entire worlds: not only in terms of chronology (the
nineteenth fin-de-siècle and the twentieth century) and of esthetics
(the Goncourts and the Surrealists), but also in terms of those two fundamental
sides of the human psyche —the rational and the irrational. While his works of
merveilleux scientifique may owe a great deal to the speculative fictions
of H.G. Wells and J.-H. Rosny aîné (and very little to the scientific fictions
of Jules Verne), much of Renard’s oeuvre owes an even greater debt to that
master of the fantastic, Edgar Allen Poe.
PRIMARY WORKS. The following is a chronological list of the
novels and short-stories published by Maurice Renard which can be described as
predominantly Science Fiction [SF], Fantastic/Horror [FH], or Detective fiction
[DF], ending with two edited collections published in 1990.
Fantômes et fantoches (Phantoms and
Puppets). Short stories. Paris: Plon, 1905. (Signed with pseudonym Vincent
Le Docteur Lerne, sous-Dieu (Doctor
Lerne, Undergod). Novel. Paris: Mercure de France, 1908 (Paris: Crès, 1919;
Paris: Tallendier, 1958; Paris: Belfond, 1970; Verviers, Belgium: Marabout,
1975). Trans. (anon.) as New Bodies for Old (NY: Macaulay, 1923). [SF]
Le Voyage immobile, suivi d’autres histoires singulières (The Immobile Voyage, followed by Other Strange Stories). Short stories. Paris:
Mercure de France, 1909 (Paris: Crès, 1922). Trans. (anon.) as The Flight of
the Aerofix (NY: Stellar, 1932). [SF/FH]
Le Péril bleu (The Blue Peril).
Novel. Paris: Michaud, 1911 (Paris: Crès, 1920; Paris: Tallendier, 1958; Paris:
Belfond, 1974; Viviers, Belgium: Marabout, 1976). [SF]
Monsieur d’Outremort et autres histoires singulières (Mr. Outremort and Other Strange Stories). Short stories. Paris: Michaud, 1913
(Paris: Crès, 1921 with the title Suite fantastique). [SF/FH]
Les Mains d’Orlac (The Hands of
Orlac). Novel. Paris: Nilsson, 1920 (Paris: Plon, 1933; Paris: Belfond, 1970;
Verviers, Belgium: Marabout, 1978). Trans. and adapted by Florence Crewe-Jones
as The Hands of Orlac (NY: Dutton, 1929; London: Four Square, 1961 [film
version]; trans. by Iain White, London: Souvenir, 1981). First published in 58
episodes in L’Intransigeant (May 15-July 12, 1920). [SF/FH]
L’Homme truqué (The Altered Man).
Novel. Paris: Crès, 1921 (Paris: Tallendier, 1958). The Crès edition also
includes two short stories: "Château hanté" (Haunted Castle) and
"La Rumeur dans la montagne" (The Murmur in the Mountain). The
Tallendier edition includes Un Homme chez les microbes instead of the
short stories. [SF/FH]
Le Singe (The Ape/The Fake). Paris:
Crès, 1925. Novel. Trans. Florence Crewe-Jones as Blind Circle (NY:
Dutton, 1928; London: Gollancz, 1929). Co-authored with Albert Jean. Originally
appeared in 62 episodes in L’Intransigeant (April 15-June 19, 1924).
L’Invitation à la peur (Invitation to Fear). Paris: Crès, 1926. Short stories. Both reprints of this
collection (Paris: Tallendier, 1958 and Paris: Belfond, 1970) carry the original
title, but do not contain the same short stories. [SF/FH]
Un Homme chez les microbes (A Man
Among the Microbes). Paris: Crès, 1928 (Paris: Ed. Métal, 1956; Paris:
Tallandier, 1958). Novel. The Ed. Métal version includes the short stories
"L’Image au fond des yeux" (The Image in the Depths of the Eyes) and
"L’Homme qui voulait être invisible" (The Man Who Wanted To Be
Invisible), whereas the Tallendier edition includes the novel L’Homme
truqué as noted above. [SF]
Le Carnaval du mystère (The
Carnival of Mystery). Short stories. Paris: Crès, 1929. Several of these short
stories—and some from the collection L’Invitation à la peur—are
reprinted in Le Papillon de la mort (Paris: Nouvelles Editions Oswald,
Celui qui n’a pas tué (He Who Did
Not Kill). Short stories. Paris: Crès, 1932. Many of the short stories in this
collection were first published in La Petite Illustration in 1927-31. [FH/DF]
Le Maître de la lumière (Master of
Light). Novel. First published in 54 episodes in L’Intransigeant (March
8-May 2, 1933). Reprinted posthumously in volume (Paris: Tallandier, 1947). [SF]
Contes des "Mille et Un Matins" (Stories from "A Thousand and One Mornings"). Short stories. Collected
and published posthumously (in Romans et contes fantastique, 1990). [SF/FH/DF]
Romans et contes fantastiques.
Paris: Laffont "Bouquins," 1990. Contains five complete SF novels (Le
Docteur Lerne, Le Péril bleu, Les Mains d’Orlac, Un Homme Chez les Microbes, and
Le Maître de la lumière) as well as a wide selection of his better SF
and Fantastic/Horror short stories. This edition also contains various essays of
literary criticism written by Renard, testimonies on Renard by a few of his
contemporaries, a brief biography of the author’s life, and three
bibliographies (all of Renard’s literary works, and subsequent film and
television adaptations made from them).
1. Cf Maxime Jakubowski 408-09, 428; Everett F. Bleiler
619-20; John J. Pierce, Foundations 73-74; and most notably John Clute
and Peter Nicholls 1003. All translations from the French are by the author
unless otherwise stated.
2. E.F. Bleiler, for instance, characterizes the translations
in the only-available English versions of Renard’s novels (dating from the
1920s) as "barbarous" and "bad, both as translation and as
English" (620). Having read Renard’s works in the original French, I
recently borrowed and perused a copy of New Bodies for Old (the quirky
English translation of Le Docteur Lerne) to see just how bad it was. I
was both perplexed and appalled: the anonymous translator, while overly
fastidious in his/her word-by-word rendering of Renard’s prose, had
nevertheless chosen to radically censor the primary text. More on this
3. Pol Neveux, "Maurice Renard rémois," Vient de
paraître (avril 1925), quoted by Jacques Baudou, "Biographie de
Maurice Renard." Romans (Renard omnibus cited above), 1242.
4. Cf Jean-Marc Gouanvic, who points out "Maurice Renard,
in contrast to Wells, presumes that the question of brain transplants has been
resolved: his Doctor Lerne starts up where The Island of Dr. Moreau leaves off. Further...what interests Wells is the social and ethical behavior of
this ‘parody of humanity.’ Renard, on the other hand, makes use of this
theme...in a manner that is essentially erotic in nature. The brain transplants
provide the occasion for reversals of roles and sexual conventions"
(113-14, my translation). These observations are from Gouanvic’s 1983
unpublished Ph.D dissertation titled "La Science-fiction française:
1918-1968," one of the best critical treatments of French sf that I have
seen to date—and one which I inadvertently neglected to mention in the
bibliographies of my earlier article "Science Fiction in France" (SFS
16:254-76, 338-68, #49, November 1989).
5. See, for example, Philip José Farmer’s "The
Lovers" (1952; The Lovers, 1961), Robert Silverberg’s "In the
Group" (1973), and Kate Wilhelm’s "Baby You Were Great"(1967).
6. Cf Pierce, Great Themes of Science Fiction, 126-27.
7. Cf Pierce, Foundations of Science Fiction, 73.
8. Before Renard, other early sf writers of the microscopic
include, for example, Fitz-James O’Brien’s "The Diamond Lens"
(1858), Edwin Pallander’s The Adventures of a Micro-Man (1902), and Ray
Cummings’ series beginning with "The Girl in the Golden Atom" (1919; The Girl in the Golden Atom, 1921), not to mention those earlier
well-known contributors to the genre: Swift, Voltaire, et al.
9. The term used in Bob Shaw’s (much more interesting) short
story "Light of Other Days" (1966) as well as in his anthology Other
Days, Other Eyes (1972).
10. Cf Van Herp, Panorama de la science-fiction, 217.
WORKS CITED AND CRITICISM ON OR BY MAURICE RENARD.
L’Ami des Livres 4, June 15, 1923.
Beliayev, Alexander. "Invisible Light." Trans. Doris
Johnson. Russian Science Fiction. Ed. Robert Magidoff. NY: New York UP,
1964. Trans. from "Nevidimyi Svet." Vokrug Sveta 1, 1938.
Baronian, J.B. "J.-H. Rosny aîné et Maurice Renard: un
fantastique raisonné," Panorama de la littérature fantastique de
langue française. Paris: Stock, 1978. 173-77.
Baudou, Jacques."Biographie de Maurice Renard." Romans
et contes fantastiques (Renard omnibus cited above). 1241-47.
—————. "Le Conteur fantastique," Désiré
12, 2nd trimester, 1976.
—————. "Maurice Renard et le merveilleux
scientifique," Désiré 14, 4th trimester, 1976.
—————. "Maurice Renard romancier et théoricien
du merveilleux scientifique," Les Cahiers de l’Imaginaire 5:41-45,
Bleiler, Everett F. "Maurice Renard." Science-Fiction,
The Early Years. By Bleiler. Kent, OH, and London: Kent State UP, 1990.
Bourgoin, Stéphane. Préface. Le Papillon de la mort. By Maurice Renard. Paris: Nouvelles Editions Oswald, 1985. 5-7.
Branthomme, Michel. "Maurice Renard." M.A. Thesis.
Univ. of Aix-en-Provence, 1973.
Bridenne, Jean-Jacques. La Littérature française d’imagination
scientifique. Paris: Das-sonville, 1950.
Les Cahiers de l’Imaginaire 5,
Sept 1981. Special issue devoted to Maurice Renard.
Clute, John, and Peter Nicholls. "Maurice Renard," The
Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Ed. Clute and Nichols. NY: St Martin’s
Press, 1993. 1003.
Evans, Arthur B. "Science Fiction in France." SFS
16.3:254-76, #49, Nov 1989.
Faucherau, Serge. "Maurice Renard." La Quinzaine
littéraire 96:25-26, June 1, 1970.
Fontenelle, Bernard le Bouvier de. Entretiens sur la
pluralité des mondes. Paris: C. Blageart, 1686. Trans. by Wm. Gardiner as Conversations
on the Plurality of Worlds. London: Bettesworth, 1715.
Gouanvic, Jean-Marc. "La Science-fiction française:
1918-1968." Diss. McGill U, 1983.
Jakubowski, Maxim. "French SF." Anatomy of
Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction. Ed. Neil Barron. 2nd ed. NY:
Bowker, 1981. 399-425. 3rd ed. NY: Bowker, 1987. 405-40.
Juin, Hubert. Preface: "Dans la ménagerie insolite."
Le Docteur Lerne. By Maurice Renard. Paris: Belfond, 1970. Reprinted in
Renard’s Romans et contes fantastiques (omnibus cited above). 59-64.
Klein, Gérard. "Maurice Renard: des mains coupées
jouant sur un piano." Le Monde, Aug. 15, 1970. 13.
Neveux, Pol. "Maurice Renard rémois." Vient de
paraître, April 1925. Quoted by Jacques Baudou. "Biographie de Maurice
Renard." Romans et contes fantastiques (Renard omnibus cited above).
Pallander, Edwin. The Adventures of a Micro-Man.
London: Digby, Long & Co., 1902.
Pierce, John J. Great Themes of Science Fiction.
Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1987.
—————. Foundations of Science Fiction.
Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1987.
Raabe, Juliette. "Maurice Renard: un combat contre la
folie." Magazine littéraire 42:35-36, July 1970.
Rambaud, Patrick. Preface: "Conditionnel Immédiat."
L’Invitation à la peur. By Maurice Renard. Paris: Belfond, 1970. 7-16.
Renard, Maurice. "Anticipations." Paris-Soir,
May 8, 1925. Reprinted in Romans et contes fantastiques (Renard omnibus
cited above). viii-x.
—————. "Depuis Sinbad." L’Ami des
livres, June 15, 1923. Reprinted in Romans (Renard omnibus cited
—————. "Le Merveilleux scientifique et La
Force mystérieuse de J.-H. Rosny aîné," La Vie 16, June 15,
1914. Reprinted in Romans (Renard omnibus cited above). 1220-25.
—————. "Pourquoi j’ai écrit Un Homme chez
les microbes," La Rumeur, Nov 19, 1928. Reprinted in Romans (Renard
omnibus cited above). 1219-20.
—————. "Que devons-nous à Jules Verne?" L’Intransigeant, Jan 6, 1928. Reprinted in Romans (Renard omnibus cited above). 1230-31.
—————. "Du Roman merveilleux scientifique et de
son action sur l’intelligence du progrès." Le Spectateur 6, Oct
6, 1909. Reprinted in Romans (Renard omnibus cited above). 1205-12.
—————. "Le Roman hypothèse," A.B.C., Dec 15, 1928. Reprinted in Romans (Renard omnibus cited above). 1216-18.
Renaud, Tristan. "Les Demaines de Maurice Renard." Lettres
Françaises 1348:7, Aug 26, 1970.
Rosny aîné, J.-H. "Un Autre monde." Récits de
science-fiction. By Rosny. Verviers, Belgium: Marabout, 1975. 17-39. Trans.
by Damon Knight as "Another World" in his A Century of Science
Fiction. NY: Dell, 1963. 271-96.
—————. "La Contrée prodigieuse des cavernes,"
Récits de science-fiction. Verviers, Belgium: Marabout, 1975. 251-69.
Touttain, Pierre-André. "Les Curieux romans de Maurice
Renard," Figaro littéraire 1245:15-16. March 30, 1970.
—————. "Les Obsessions de Maurice Renard."
Les Nouvelles littéraires 2225:5, May 14, 1970.
—————. Preface: "Maurice Renard, ou le mystère
des mains." Les Mains d’Orlac. By Maurice Renard. Paris: Belfond,
Triptique 24, Jan 1929.
Tulard, Jean. Préface. Romans (Renard omnibus cited
Van Herp, Jacques. "Maurice Renard, scribe des
miracles." Fiction 28:107-10, 1956.
—————. Panorama de la science-fiction.
Verviers, Belgium: Marabout, 1973, rpt. 1975.
Versins, Pierre. "Maurice Renard." Encylopédie
de l’utopie, des voyages extraordinaires, et de la science fiction. Lausanne: L’Age d’Homme, 1972, 1984. 734-35.
Vient de Paraître 41, April 1925.
Special issue devoted to Maurice Renard.
Although one of the most prominent writers (and theorists) of
science fiction in France throughout the period of 1900-1930, Maurice Renard has
heretofore received very little critical attention outside his native land. His
neglect among Anglo-American literary scholars is most likely the result of two
factors: first, very few English translations of Renard’s works exist (and
those that do are of inferior quality) and, second, the basic nature of Renard’s
sf tends to challenge our more modern notions of genre specificity when defining
the sf canon—i.e., his stories appear to continually cross the line into
Gothic horror, mythological fantasy, and detective mysteries. This article
presents a brief synopsis of Maurice Renard’s life and literary ideas (e.g.,
the "scientific-marvellous"), and offers a detailed discussion of
Renard’s many novels and short stories, which, often resembling a kind of
cross-hybridization between Wells and Poe, can together perhaps best be labeled
"fantastic sf." (ABE)
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