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Martin du Gard's monster in a box
by Ben Downing
A consideration of the author and his unfinished novel Lieutenant-Colonel de Maumort.
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On New Year’s Day 1931, the novelist Roger Martin du Gard (1881–1958) and his wife were seriously injured in a car crash, and they spent the next few months recuperating in a Le Mans hospital. That Martin du Gard had recently finished a solid first draft of the seventh installment of The Thibaults, the roman-fleuve he’d been trickling out since 1922, should, one would think, have been a source of some comfort to him during his long convalescence. But no: mulling in bed over his project, he came to the conclusions that this latest stretch of it simply would not do and that, to forfend against dithering, he had better torch the whole thing then and there. The replacement volume, Summer 1914, took another five years to complete, but Martin du Gard must have felt vindicated in his sacrifice when, the year after publication, it was singled out by the Swedish Academy in bestowing on him the Nobel Prize for 1937.
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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 18 April 2000, on page 27
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