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Emmanuel Bove


Emmanuel Bove (1898–1945) was a French journalist and novelist. He had been publishing popular novels under the pseudonym Jean Vallois for several years when Colette helped him publish the novel My Friends under his own name. He continued publishing successful novels until World War II, at which time he was forced into exile in Algeria. He died of heart failure soon after returning to Paris from exile.

Emmanuel Bove was born Emmanuel Bobovnikoff on 20 April 1898 in Paris to a Jewish immigrant, the Ukrainian Emmanuel Bobovnikoff, and a Belgian-born mother, Henriëtte Michels. His childhood was a difficult one as his father and his financial contributions to the family were often absent. His life took a turn for the better when his father married the wealthy painter Emily Overweg. Emmanuel went to live with his father and stepmother and with the latter’s financial backing he was able to go to a boarding school in England. He had then already decided that he wanted to become a writer.

The outbreak of World War I forced him to return to France. His father had died of tuberculosis and his stepmother was no longer able to financially support him, so the young Emmanuel had to support himself with little menial jobs while attempting to write. He lived in a hotel, a setting that would later become quite familiar in his novels. He changed his name to the more pronounceable Bove, due to an anti-Semitic gendarme’s inability to say his name and the subsequent one-month imprisonment.

Shortly after the war he married Suzanne Vallois, a young teacher, and moved to the suburbs of Vienna. There he tried to support his wife and daughter Nora writing pulp fiction under the pseudonym Jean Vallois. When money ran out the family of three was forced to return to Paris. His work came to the attention of Colette, who helped him publish his first novel under his own name, Mes Amis (My Friends) in 1924. The novel became an instant success (with Bove being compared to Proust and Dostoyevsky) and is consistently published until the World War II, winning the Prix Figuière in 1928. It remains Bove’s best-known novel.

Throughout his career, Bove captured the experience of a lost generation of war veterans. For that and his precise and elegant language he was much admired, notably by Samuel Beckett. He was especially successful and productive during the 1920s and 1930s and had a profound influence on many authors during his lifetime, and later on those after World War II.

He divorced Suzanne in 1925 and then married the wealthy and Jewish Louise Ottensooser who again introduced him to high society. With her he left for Algiers in 1942. During the German occupation of France, he refused to publish any work. Other artists, writers and painters had also taken refuge in Algiers and so Bove was again surrounded by admirers. In the autumn of 1944 he returned to France were he fell ill and did not recover. He died in Paris on July 13, 1945 from cachexia and heart failure.

Emmanuel Bove