When I was eighteen I read Le Silence de la Mer, a novella by the resistance writer Vercors. It had a huge impact on me. Later, in my twenties, I read his L'Imprimerie de Verdun; and still later, a strange novel entitled Les Animaux Dénaturés. This book, published after the war, explores what it is to be a human being, and is - in essence - an extended argument for human rights in the wake of genocide. It's very powerful, and very odd, and I keep coming back to it. I have never found an English translation. Until today, that is, when I saw - in the antiquarian display cabinet at Blackwell's - a first edition of a book by Vercors in translation. And in translation the title is Borderline. The cover gave it away, with its half human / half beast image:
I couldn't resist, and - with some money I got for examining a PhD in January - bought it.
That's where the fun and the detective work starts, because the book is signed not only by the translator, Rita Barisse (who was Vercors' wife), but - apparently - by Vercors himself.
I couldn't quite belief this, and thought she might have signed on his behalf, but the internet is a wonderful thing, and here is an image of a signed copy of Le Silence de la Mer. Looks like the real McCoy to me:
I was intrigued by the dedication to Gladys Bendit - evidently a friend. So I looked her up, and she was quite a character too; a woman passionate about the plight of refugee children in the war, and an author in her own right:
So here, as I write, I have next to me a book held by Vercors himself and his wife, dedicated to another writer - all three passionate in their response to fascism, and believers in the power of writing to challenge discrimination, violence and oppression. How wonderful is that?