Thursday, November 29, 2012

Alexis Gensoul (another forgotten french writer) : Gribouille est mort, 1945.

Today we speak about an unknown novel, published in Italy in 1954 by Gherardo Casini Editore (Gherardo casini publishing house).
In the case of Casini Publications, the covers are never original, but they are frames taken from famous movies of the time that the situation can recall the title of the novel: in our case, for example, 'cover image is taken from "Red Snow". The actor holding the phone is the great Robert Ryan, an unforgettable protagonist of the film mentioned above, one of the best noir of the '50s, On Dangerous Ground (1951), by Nicholas Ray.
In these novels often descriptions of the atmosphere has been sacrificed in favor of the police bare fact: it can be an advantage or a disadvantage. Nevertheless they are the only chance we have to acquire information about forgotten authors.

The novel in question is by Alexis Gensoul, French writer active after World War II and remembered even today in some circles for a wonderful Locked Room written in collaboration with Charles Grenier, La Mort vient de nulle part (1945) and for another written by him alone in the same year, 1945, L’Énigme de Téfaha.

It must have been a very fruitful 1945, end of the Second World War, in the production of Gesoul, because of the same year is also Gribouille est mort, translated by Casini with "Un morto al telefono (=A dead man on the phone)"
Alexis Gensoul whose biographical information absent, we only know he was a physician and that between 1945 and 1946 he published four novels from the same publisher STAEL, three in 1945 and one in 1946: the first of these was L’Énigme de Téfaha, which has a fairly simple Locked Room, the second work was written with Grenier that still stands as one of Locked Rooms signposting written after the war, the eastern third was Gribouille est Mort, a great novel with a crime impossible, the fourth novel more on the adventure, L'Affaire de la maison Faroux (1946).

This Gribouille est Mort would be a Locked Room, if it did not have an open window, but the other conditions are all there for the impossible crime: closed door, missing weapon and above all, given that it distinguishes this novel, the dead, Gréje, who prophesies first his own death, writing the letter to an acquaintance of his, Godinet, and who telephones and talks to a friend of his,the policeman Corbellet.
Everyone is looking for a strange type seen leaving, and as a witness there is the entire schoolchild of a colony that draws; then there is a weapon found by an amateur policeman, Vérannes. The killer's only possible escape route overlooks a small garden, but the schoolchildren testify that no one has jumped. Yet there are the killer's footprints in the ground.
Great ordeal of Gensoul's skill in creating a novel that approaches the impossible without ever crossing it, vividly illustrating the French province and subtle psychology of the various characters.
However I notice in this novel the dependence on a novel by a great British writer, and also on the equally famous story of a great British writer. The final, spectacular solution, makes Perspicax a sort of executioner in the shadows, very close to Maurice Leblanc's Arsene Lupine, because he only nails the killer because he killed an innocent, the second victim.

Pietro De Palma 

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