Vian, Boris (1920–1959) By Lapprand, Marc Didier
Boris Vian (1920–1959) may well be the Renaissance man of twentieth-century France. In his short life, he was an engineer, a jazz musician, a fiction writer, a poet, a translator, a song-writer, and for a brief time a singer, a jazz critic and one of the most flamboyant members of the Collège de ‘Pataphysique. At the age of twenty-six, he wrote L’Écume des jours [Foam of the Daze], considered today his masterpiece (which still sells just under 100,000 copies each year). That same year, after a bet, he invented a pseudo-American writer in search of a publishing house: Vernon Sullivan, whose first hard-boiled novel Vian would ‘translate’: J’irai cracher sur vos tombes [I Spit on Your Graves]. For the next five years, both Vian and Sullivan penned novels alternately, the latter having a commercial (and scandalous) success and the former remaining quite unknown. In 1951 Boris Vian gave up writing novels and started a new career, turning towards the art of the stage. His productivity remained high until his premature death. His literary success, though, is entirely posthumous.