SEPTEMBER 10, 2020
THE FOLLOWING IS an excerpt, translated by Chris Clarke, from Raymond Queneau’s Journaux 1914–1965, published by Gallimard/NRF in 1996. It is the entry for January 4, 1960, the day Albert Camus died, along with his friend Michel Gallimard, in a car crash in north-central France. We are grateful to Gallimard for permission to reprint.
MONDAY COMING on the heels of a long weekend is pleasant because then there’s a lot of mail, and I enjoy getting a lot of mail, and yet there wasn’t all that much I look in my pigeonhole but no there wasn’t all that much and then a bit later there’s Des Forêts who shows up and brings me his manuscript it’s been years since he’s brought one this time it consists of five short stories one of which appeared in the Arbalète not long after the Liberation, three that appeared in journals the past few years, Lettres Nouvelles the NNRF and then one that hasn’t been published we talk about three of the stories in the collection he leaves he’s going to get back to work on the Encyclopédie then I stop by to see Raymond [Gallimard] no reason in particular in fact I don’t know why I went to see him he tells me Michel has been in an accident I’m still waiting for news I ask him where and he tells me in Montereau I ask is it serious he tells me I think they’re injured who’s they we don’t know much but Michel at any rate and probably Camus no one is sure exactly why Camus was with him Gaston arrives he’s anxious he had a call put in to Beuret he’s waiting for news and now Suzanne Agnely comes into the office and says Camus is dead. It’s quite a blow. She says it just like that it’s quite a blow. Gaston is crying no one knows what to say anymore Gaston stops crying he goes over by Odette Laigle who is telephoning in every direction Arland arrives too is it true well it seems to have been confirmed Robert phones just then from Montereau he and Pierre have gone out there Michel is gravely injured Janine and Anne [Gallimard, Michel’s wife and their daughter] are fine or nothing big Camus is definitely dead that all took some time Gaston and Raymond decide to go out to Montereau me I think it’s a good time to cancel my dinner and cinema plans at eleven o’clock Simone Vernier calls for me she heard Janine speaking on the radio it’s shocking the evening editions of the morning’s papers have great big headlines everyone buying the paper talking about it did you see about Camus … Camus is dead … he was actually quite famous people are really stunned they mention Philipe Vidal Coppi it’s overwhelming the next morning is Tuesday I get there the news isn’t great Robert’s going back to Montereau I ask him if it would bother him if I went along no but he’s got to swing by and pick up René[e] and we’re going to grab Lehmann at the Gare de Lyon fine he swings by and picks Renée up and we get Lehmann at the Gare de Lyon he drives a 403 doesn’t go very fast he says stops to see the trees that are only a bit scraped up the debris from the car has been taken away there are still policemen examining the site then we go to City Hall she isn’t there they send us to see the mayor he isn’t there he’s at Élysée so it’s all a waste of time we go back to Montereau I go to see Janine she tells me that the magistrate has been there and he questioned her he was very discreet Thomasset Janine’s father is there he confirms it he didn’t mention the death of Camus it’s good that he didn’t mention the death of Camus not like that asshole of a journalist who informed Janine and who made her speak on the radio Janine is talking about all of this with no visible emotion her neck is quite swollen hard to swallow but that’s all she ended up with she also tells me about New Year’s Eve in Castellaras with Prévert who was drunk and the fountain competition and how annoying it was that all the men were on the jury except for Michel and that they retired to deliberate and all the women stayed there on their own with Michel and it hadn’t been funny it had taken two hours because of Prévert being drunk they left straight after
From Journal 1914–1965 by Raymond Queneau © Editions Gallimard, 1996
Raymond Queneau was a French novelist, poet, critic, and editor. A founding member of the Oulipo group, Queneau’s experimental writings included over a dozen novels, as well as numerous collections of poetry and essays. He died in 1976.
Chris Clarke is a translator, writer, and scholar currently based in Philadelphia. His translations include work by Raymond Queneau, Patrick Modiano, Marcel Schwob, and most recently, Ryad Girod. He is currently translating Queneau’s 1944 novel Loin de Rueil, which will be published by NYRB Classics in 2022.