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Boris Vian (1920 - 1959)

Lifespan: 1920 - 1959

Related: Americanophile - French literature - jazz - French music - I Spit On Your Grave (1959) - Michel Gast

The title Possible Songs betrays Vian's love for surrealism.

Boris Vian chante Boris Vian () - Boris Vian
[FR] [DE] [UK]

Vian believed that the color of his skin was the major impediment to mastery of the jazz idiom. In truth, Vian believed in the universality of this distinction. No matter what the jazz style, white musicians were inherently inferior to Blacks. “The problem is the following,” he wrote in a 1948 editorial in Combat, “black music is increasing encumbered by white elements, often pleasant but always superfluous, easily and advantageously replaced with black elements.” Vian believed, in theory, in the idea of racial mixing among musicians. “Of course, it’s fun to play with Blacks.” But, he asked his readers, “who benefits? Surely not them!” “So,” he ends the piece, “do we have to exterminate the Whites? Of course not! But if only they could all just die suddenly…” Obviously, as a white musician himself, Vian is overstating his case. But for various reasons, Vian is continually frustrated by the Whites in jazz, especially when they take attention away from Blacks. [Aug 2006]


Boris Vian (March 10, 1920 - June 23, 1959) was a French writer, poet, singer, and musician, who also wrote under the pseudonym Vernon Sullivan. He was born in Ville-d'Avray, near Paris, and educated at the École Centrale Paris. His works were often highly controversial, but his writing and performance of jazz songs gained the admiration of many famous names.

He wrote 10 novels, including some mass-market sex-and-violence thrillers, under the pseudonym of Vernon Sullivan, who he claimed was an American whose works had been translated into French; every one of these caused a scandal in France upon publication. Under his own name he published L'Arrache Coeur (Heartsnatcher), L'Herbe Rouge, and what critics regard as his masterpiece, L'Ecume des Jours. L'Ecume des Jours has appeared in English translation several times under different titles, but Stanley Chapman's translation Froth on the Daydream is generally regarded as the most accomplished.

He was also the author of plays, short stories and songs, including a 1958 collaboration on the opera Fiesta with Darius Milhaud. He often played jazz at the "Tabou", a club (now disappeared), which was located in the Rue Dauphine, close to Saint-Germain des Prés, in Paris. He was playing a pocket trumpet, which he called "trompinette" in some of his poems. His most famous song was "Le déserteur", a pacifist song written during the Indochina War. He himself recorded a good number of his many texts, with most of the rest recorded by other artists, among them Juliette Gréco, Nana Mouskouri, Yves Montand, Magali Noel, and Henri Salvador. Serge Gainsbourg said that it was seeing Boris Vian on stage that made him decide to try his hand at songwriting.

A jazz enthusiast, he served as liaison for, among others, Duke Ellington and Miles Davis in Paris. He also mounted several Jazz publications (Jazz Hot, Paris Jazz) and published numerous articles dealing with Jazz both in America and France. Though he never put a foot on American soil, the themes of both jazz and America run thick in his work.

On the morning of June 23, 1959, Boris Vian was at the Cinema Marbeuf for the screening of the film version of his controversial "Vernon Sullivan" novel, J'irai cracher sur vos tombes (I will Spit On Your Graves). He had already fought with the producers over their interpretation of his work and he publicly denounced the film stating that he wished to have his name removed from the credits. A few minutes after the film began, he reportedly blurted out: "These guys are supposed to be American? My ass!" He then collapsed into his seat and died of a heart attack en route to the hospital. The heart attack is widely attributed to the fact that Boris Vian had been suffering from irregular heartbeat for a long time. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boris_Vian [Dec 2004]

Et on tuera tous les affreux (1948) - Boris Vian

Et on tuera tous les affreux (1948) - Boris Vian

Et on tuera tous les affreux [Eng: Let's Kill All The Uglies] is a French detective novel by Vernon Sullivan, the pseudonym of Boris Vian, first published in 1948 by Scorpion. The novel, like many others (the most famous of which is I Spit On Your Grave), was supposedly written by a certain American writer called Vernon Sullivan, of which Boris Vian pretended to be the translator. [Dec 2006]

I know only a little bit about Vian. He was one of those infinitely connected nodes. Amazing how much we know about Jamaican Culture in Britain but how little about that of our (extremely wonderful and interesting neighbours). If I was the editor of The Wire I’d look into things like this. Vian was the dude who fixed up all the Jazz for Paris in the 40s and 50s. He brought Ellington over to France ... He’s the early reincarnation of that perennial French figure, the Afro-American culture importer. In the late 60s we have Daniel Caux bringing over the Free crew for the Shandar stuff [and also here] and in the 90s we have Laurent Garnier getting the Detroit lot over. -- Woebot on Vian [2003].

Boris Vian chante Boris Vian

1. Les Joyeux Bouchers 2. Le Deserteur 3. La Java Des Bombes Atomiq 4. Le Petit Commerce (Inedit 5. Complainte De Progres 6. Cinematographe 7. J'suis Snob 8. On N'est Pas La Pour Se F 9. On N'est Pas La Pour Se F 10. Je Bois 11. Le Petit Commerce 12. Bourree De Complexes 13. Ah! Si J'avais Un Franc C 14. Barcelone (Inedit) 15. A La Peche Des Coeurs (In 16. Calypso Blues (Inedit) 17. Mozart Avec Nous (Inedit) 18. La Java Des Chaussettes A 19. J'suis Snob (Inedit)

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