The World's Best Unknown Books
28 08 2013

Misery, Filth, Joy: Calaferte's Innocents

Requiem of the Innocent Louis Calaferte

Translation Amanda Hopkinson

A childhood in poverty, misery and cynicism; a search for friendship and a trust that is always broken. The powerlessness of children left on their own, exposed to the brutality of adults: all of these are depicted in a series of events. (Georges-Arthur Goldschmidt on Requiem des innocents)

His work is above all a testimony born of human suffering, and this is why we will continue to read him for many years to come.

Georges-Arthur Goldschmidt, La Quinzaine Littéraire

Largely autobiographical, this first novel by Louis Calaferte (a major success in 1952) depicts the author’s childhood and the lives of a gang of youngsters from extremely poor families who live in an abandoned zone on the edge of an unnamed city.

This is no place for the imagination. A zone outside a large city: shacks, a wasteland, shouts, blows, filth, alcohol, sexuality, brutality and ignorance, perversity, the cruel games of idle youth, all of this is real. As is the schoolmaster intent on giving his pupils a taste for human dignity. ‘I am fully aware,’ the author said, ‘that these pages are only worth something in the light of the emotion that, if my goal is reached, should seep out of these scenes, these facts – all of them real – that I have depicted.’ Heralded as revelatory in 1952, Requiem des innocents was Calaferte’s first novel. It is as potent as ever and remains one of the most important cries of revolt against misery and the injustice of the modern world. ‘Poor people are often driven to fight amongst themselves. You need someone on whom to take out your fury, your rage at being in the world and having to stay here.’

The characters and events might remind one of films by Fellini or Pier Paolo Pasolini. The book is a forgotten classic of twentieth-century French literature.

Contact translation rights:

Benita Edzard and Judith Temmam

Éditions Julliard
Original language
Original title
Requiem des innocents (1952)

Available as
ISBN 978-2260012450
209 pages
second hand
Mass Market Paperback
ISBN 978-2070410019
209 pages
second hand