Adapted to film by both Louis Malle and Joachim Trier, this heart-rending and tenderly wrought novel narrates the decline of an artist and heroin addict in 1920s Paris.
Pierre Drieu la Rochelle might be said to be both the Hemingway and the Fitzgerald of twentieth-century French literature, a battle-scarred veteran of the First World War whose work chronicles the trials and tribulations of a lost generation, a man about town, a heartbreaker with a broken heart, a literary stylist whose work is as tough as it is lyrical and polished. Politically compromised as Drieu came to be by his affiliation with the fascist right and collaboration under Nazi occupation—Drieu committed suicide at the end of the war—his novels remain vivid reflections of a broken spiritual and political world of the interwar years and as works of art, and to this day they are widely read and greatly admired in France.
The Fire Within, which has been successfully adapted to the screen by Louis Malle and more recently Joachim Trier, is the lacerating tale of Alain Leroy, a war veteran and beautiful young man of whom the world is expected but who has taken refuge from the world in drugs. After being institutionalized, Alain emerges to try to put his life together again, but in spite of the attentions of friends and lovers, he struggles to find his way.
About the Author
Pierre Drieu la Rochelle (1893–1945) was a French writer of novels, short stories, and political essays. His work was marked by his experience as a soldier during World War I. After the war, as the director of the Nouvelle Revue Française, he became a leading figure of cultural collaboration with the Nazis during France’s occupation. After the liberation of Paris, Drieu went into hiding and committed suicide. Two novels, The Fire Within (1931) and Gilles (1939), are his most enduring works.
Richard Howard (1929–2022) was the author of numerous volumes of poetry and the translator of more than one hundred fifty titles from the French, including, for New York Review Books, Marc Fumaroli’s When the World Spoke French, Honoré de Balzac’s Unknown Masterpiece, and Guy de Maupassant’s Alien Hearts. He received a National Book Award for his translation of Les Fleurs du mal and a Pulitzer Prize for Untitled Subjects, a collection of poetry.
Will Self is a journalist, columnist, and author of more than two dozen books of fiction and nonfiction, including eleven novels. His most recent book is the collection Why Read: Selected Writings 2001-2021.
"Richard Howard’s eloquent 1965 translation captures every exquisite twist...La Rochelle’s courageous plunge into the void reveals itself to be, as Will Self suggests in his incisive introduction, an existential novel rivaling those of Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and William S. Burroughs." —David Wright, Library Journal
"The Fire Within is Drieu's best book, if you ask me. In it he's working quickly. He's in a hurry. Death's breathing down his neck and over the pages of his novel, briskly sweeping away all digression." —Bernard Frank
"[Drieu] is one of those immortal figures, frequent in the history of letters, whose faint shade—growing more and more substantial by the year—tramples the dust and ashes of lives we used to think of as successful." —François Mauriac
"I, for my part, situate myself with Céline and Montherlant and Malraux." —Pierre Drieu La Rochelle