29 September 2008

Barred (Jean Rhys)

Edward de Neve. BARRED. Desmond Harmsworth, London 1932.

Current Selling Prices
$1000 +/£600+

Something of a sleeper and undeniably rare, so hard to find that I am not especially concerned about awakening it. It is so rare that it has no real currency. The kind of sleeper you don't want to be blabbing about is one that can be fairly easily found and quickly and quietly converted into real money. Our copy, at the somewhat 'greedy bastard' price of £750 is the only one on the web and is described thus:
8vo. pp 255. Said to be mostly written by Jean Rhys from her husband's (Jean Lenglet, sometime Langlet) Dutch language manuscript. A noted rarity. Original publisher's black cloth lettered red at the spine, covers slightly rubbed, slightly scuffed at spine ends else very good sound copy. From the library of Norman Douglas with a note in pencil by him on the front endpaper 'Belongs to N.D.'
The price, which I shall eventually reduce, is taken out of the air and owes some of its weight to the connection with 'Uncle Norman.' In a jacket it should be worth well into four figures.

Posted on Face Book (or 'My Face' as my aunt calls it) is this game offer: " I will marry anyone who can tell me what these books have in common. Quartet by Jean Rhys...The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford...Barred by Edward de Neve...Drawn From Life by Stella Bowen." This posted by a not unattractive twentysomething party houndette--well dearie marry me 'cos I know. 'Good Soldier' is by FMF who was a lover of Jean Rhys while he was also living with Stella Bowen who wrote about it in 'Drawn from Life' and Jean Rhys distraught but empowered turned out 'Quartet' (NY 1929, published in UK as 'Postures' in 1928.) 'Barred' also covers this triangulation, not to say quadrangulation. (Pic of JL and JR to the left.)

Jean Rhys translated 'Barred' from the French edition Sous les Verrous which literally translates as 'Under the Locks.' The book is dedicated to her and seems almost a plea for her return. Rhys cut over 6000 words and it is said there is hardly a paragraph where she hasn't changed something, she was after all il miglior fabbro. Ford, unaccountably attractive to women, also wrote about the affair in 'When the Wicked Man' (said to be 'virtually unreadable') also it is covered with some resentment by Stella Bowen in 'Drawn from Life' (1941) - she describes the members of the boho Paris crowd around FMF when he was editing 'Transatlatic Review as either 'dirty, drunk, a pervert or a thief or a whore...'

The book also might be sold as a prison novel, a genre for which there is a lively bunch of punters. In late 1924 Lenglet (aka Edward de Neve) was arrested for embezzling money from the travel firm he was working for. He said that he had borrowed the money to do a deal, but the deal had failed and he was unable to replace the money before its absence was noted. A classic excuse, but it did not save him from a prison sentence in the inaptly named Santé prison. This left his wife destitute - when Bowen and Ford took her in she was down to 3 Francs and as SB notes '...(she) possessed nothing but a cardboard suitcase and the astonishing manuscript (of)...an unpublishably sordid novel of great sensitiveness and persuasiveness...'

OUTLOOK? I have a feeling that Jean Rhys will at some point go up in value due to her Caribbean origins, the drama of her life and loves, her sheer talent and power and the fact she seems to still have some resonance even with the callow web3 generation. Another translation of hers, Carco's 'Perversity' (NY: Pacal Covici, 1928) is listed at $2500 for a decent copy in jacket. Well over twice what it should be (imnsho), but an interesting book as the translator is given as Ford Madox Ford but it is now known to have been entirely JR's work. Ford had involved himself in the translation project to such an extent that both Carco and the American publisher, Pascal Covici, thought Ford himself was the translator. The seller says: 'Rhys in this century is beginning to look like one of the truly great 20th Century novelists...' If he is right then prospects are good, but bear in mind that apart from the very rare 'Barred' and possibly her first book 'Postures', her books are not at present especially scarce.
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