Friday, January 22, 2010

Need help finding "Jacques Arnaut" by Leon Bopp

I often spend an afternoon or evening exploring on-line databases looking for Louise Brooks related material. Why? Because I enjoy it, and, you never know what you'll find and where. The other day, I spent a good number of hours picking through Gallica, the digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Gallica is a massive, searchable collection containing nearly one million digitized French documents including 150,000 monographs and books, 675,000 pages from more than 4,000 periodicals (including both newspapers and film journals), 115,000 images, 1,000 sound recordings, 5,500 manuscripts, 2,300 music scores, etc. . . . In other words, all kinds of stuff. Content comes both from the Bibliothèque nationale de France and other partner libraries around the country.

Gallica is an oustanding resource - and one worth visiting for if you have a serious interest in researching Louise Brooks, silent film, or just about any other topic. I don't speak or read French, but was able to make my way through Gallica and find a good deal of interesting material related to the actress and her films.

For example, I uncovered a review of Prix de Beaute published in 1930 in a French-language Algerian newspaper! (That the first article I've found from Algeria, though not the first from Africa.) Of course, Prix de Beaute was made in France, though nearly all of Brooks' American and German films showed there - and were the subject of articles and reviews. All in all, I found a lot of good material - most of it little known.

Among the other items I came across was a collection of short stories, Jacques Arnaut, published by Gallimard in 1933. The book's author is by Leon Bopp, a novelist, literary critic, and philosopher born in 1897. According to my keyword search, Louise Brooks is mentioned in passing in one of the stories. From the snippet offered with the search results, it's mentioned that someone "loves Louise Brooks." However, I can't access the text of the book nor determine the context of the reference beyond this bit of information.

Nor, have I been able to find much information on the internet about Leon Bopp. (What I have been able to gleam is that Bopp may have been a friend or acquaintance of Jean-Paul Sartre, who incidentally, took Simone de Beauvoir to see A Girl in Every Port (1928) on one of their first dates!)

Any reference to Louise Brooks in a work of literary fiction is interesting. Bopp's short story may be among the earliest such literary references on record. (Prior to Bopp's story, there had been a few novelizations of Brooks' films published in France. Each of these books were pulp softcovers, and each featured the actress on the cover. The most notable among them is the post film novelization of  Prix de Beaute published in 1932. It's author, Boisyvon, would later make a name for himself as a film critic.)

I need help in locating a copy of the Leon Bopp story. Only one single solitary lonely copy of the 1933 edition of this book is known to be held in an American library - and I have already requested it via an interlibrary loan. (I have a strong feeling, however, it won't come.) I also need anyone's help in finding out more about Bopp and this early work.

Louise Brooks is much admired in France - perhaps more so than in the United States, a la Jerry Lewis. She is so popular there that she has also inspired a handful of contemporary novels published in France, such as Le Manuscrit Louise B by Matthieu Baumier and Louise Brooks est Morte (with its Hans Bellmar-like cover) by Patrick Mosconi .

While scouring the Gallica databases I also came across two more contemporary works of  fiction which mention the actress. Each is by a still living though now elderly literary writer  named Michel Mohrt. The two novels, each published by Gallimard, are La Guerre civile (1986) and Un Soir, à Londres (1991). I have requests in for each of these books as well.

If anyone, especially fans within France, can help me find out more about Leon Bopp and Jacques Arnaut I would sure appreciate it.


  1. Fascinating post Thomas. And thanks for the information on Gallica...I'm clueless but will send out a call.

  2. On the site of "Les Editions Gallimard" it looks as the books of Léon Bopp have never been since 1963. No paperback.
    The 13 first pages of the book can be seen there.


  3. Lonely Jacques? At, a lucky seven American university libraries are said to carry Jacques Arnaut et la Somme romanesque. Stanford has a copy. So does UC-Riverside -- "Copy signed by author"! -- but, "Status / LIB USE ONLY".

    If (when!) you get your hands on it, you could run the LB passage by the folk at (or for translation. Part of the fun is, giving strangers a found poem à la Lulu.

    MUSIC: Lucienne Boyer, "Parlez-Moi d'Amour"

  4. Thank you. I can't believe I missed that on Worldcat! I was thinking about venturing to Stanford sometime next month - so I may try and give a look over, though the Stanford online catalog seems to state the copy they have is held off campus (and thus may not be accessible). We shall see.


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