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Le Crapouillot – France’s 80-Year Political Satire Magazine


While foraging about the internet’s forest floor to learn all I could about our latest Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Patrick Modiano, I discovered Le Crapouillot. The first discovery was that Modiano had contributed to an issue of a magazine about drugs. The actual title of the issue was: “LSD une bombe atomique dans la tête” (“LSD: An atomic bomb in the head”). The issue was Crapouillot #71, and came out in 1966, when Modiano was 21. The cover is really something to behold. The quote below the cover image translates roughly to: “[i]t hurts … I’m hot … flowers … oh, it’s beautiful …. I have to come back …. oh, no! it’s getting terrible…” – look at that poor woman’s face!:


Crapoillot no 7: LSD


Clearly, this was a magazine I needed to investigate further.

Le Crapouillot (the word is a variation on the French word “Crapaud” or “little toad”) was a French political magazine which ran for more than 80 years, from 1915 until its final issue in 1996. The magazine was begun by French soldier and controversial journalist Jean Galtier-Boissiere, who originally intended it as a trench paper, just for his peers in the military. He created it, in part, out of his belief in a need for a balanced view of French soldiers, after being offended and taken aback by the depictions and caricatures he saw in the media. Le Crapouillot promised early on to address the authentic, first-hand stories of French soldiers, from their perspectives. The insolent, irreverent and fearless publication soon proved so popular, however, that by 1925 it was a monthly distribution, with an ever-expanding subscriber list.

In its 80 year run, Le Crapouillot varied widely in its insights and opinions, striving to seek the truth and to publish without censorship or fear of reprisal. That bold attitude resulted in a fantastic series of historical snapshots, with issues addressing so many social, political and economic struggles throughout the century. For instance, the July, 1933 issue, “Hitler, est-ce la guerre?” (“Hitler, is This War?”) explored in detail the personality of Adolf Hitler, his intentions, and his possible trajectory, despite being published very early into Hitler’s rise to power.


Le Crapouillot was unusual at the time, as it devoted each issue to one sole subject to focus on, and nothing was off the table. Art, sexuality, drugs, the economy, social trends, class warfare, and of course politics – everything had its moment within the pages of the magazine. Le Crapouillot enjoyed enough traction to attract the attention of some larger publications, and was given a nod in a December, 1935 issue of Time Magazine as a “Paris muckraker” worth exploring. (What is muckraking?)

In its later years, publication frequency was fitful, irregular and unreliable. By the time the magazine folded in 1996, it had become a staunchly conservative, right-wing publication. But for any magazine collecting enthusiast or French history buff, the back issues of Le Crapouillot are a unique goldmine of information to explore – a time capsule of nearly an entire century of France’s social development. Copies are, for the most part, surprisingly affordable, as well.

There are well over 2,000 issues of Le Crapouillot available for sale on AbeBooks, ranging in price from $2.00 all the up to $1900, with a median asking price of approximately $15.00.

The best travel books and world’s most literary city according to Patricia Schultz

1000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz

We recently had the pleasure of meeting author Patricia Schultz, the woman behind the best-selling 1000 Places to See Before You Die books. We were anxious to pick her brain about the world’s most literary towns and the bookshops she’s seen along the way, and she was generous enough to indulge us.

AbeBooks: Tell us about the most interesting bookshops you’ve discovered in your travels.

Patricia Schultz: I have traveled all over the US speaking at travel shows, libraries and bookstores. I’ve found that the smaller independent bookstores so full of character - some of them owned by the same book-loving family for generations - are generally the most interesting, having had to grow, evolve and keep up with the ways and trends of the times. Those that have survived appear to be much more of a welcoming social center than the larger and more impersonal chains. It is so important to support our independent stores.

A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos OzAbe: What books are in your suitcase?

P.S.: I always bring a guidebook or three (with others left behind at home) – but for my trip to Israel in a few weeks, I will also be bringing A Tale of Love and Darkness, the autobiography written by the acclaimed novelist Amos Oz. Three different friends have told me it promises a sensitively written and profound insight to Israel, a very special destination where I last visited 15 years ago.

Abe: In your opinion, what is the most literary city in the world? Why?

P.S.: Ireland’s deep love of words go far beyond James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, Yeats and Beckett – back to the Druids and Celts. Dublin is a great city all around, with a longtime love and respect for its famous story tellers and awarded literary heritage. The capital city names bridges and streets after writers, and erects statues and memorials to commemorate them. In 2010, the UN declared Dublin an official City of Literature (a credential it shares with just six others in the world: Edinburgh, Iowa City, Reykjavik, Melbourne, Norwich and Krakow)…and did I mention its dozens of literary pubs?

Our Man in Havana by Graham GreeneAbe: Who is your favorite (fellow) travel writer?

P.S.: I couldn’t possibly list one – nor all of them. Some I happened upon randomly, others because they were linked to a destination I was planning to visit. I read Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet and T. E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom before my first visit to Egypt. Patrick Leigh Fermor‘s books led me to Greece’s Mani Peninsula, while Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene stoked my curiosity about Cuba. I don’t read travel literature half as much as I would like to, as I am always up-to-here with guide books, mountains of periodicals and research that need my attention for more practical purposes – but they too are insightful and inspiring in their own way.

Abe: What inspired you to travel the world, and what inspired you to write about it?

P.S.: That curiosity with which we are all born did not diminish in me over the years. My parents – although we traveled infrequently as a family due to a very modest lifestyle – always helped to keep that curiosity alive and nourished. I always traveled as much as I could, beginning with three experience-packed years after college when I lived in Florence. I never really fancied myself a writer – I had never studied writing or journalism and I read a lot (mostly to keep alive the second and third languages I studied in school) but not voraciously. My first writing assignment came to me by chance – and that’s when the light bulb went off. What if I could make a living off of my wanderlust? Beginner’s luck was good to me and kept reality at bay. It isn’t an easy (nor lucrative – at all!) career choice, but I was enjoying it too much to reconsider during those first (very) lean years.


American Tourist Accidentally Locked Inside London Bookstore

When I was a little girl, I saw a movie in which some children are trapped overnight in a shopping mall. I can’t remember how that came to pass, what they did in there, or the eventual outcome (I feel sure they made it out alive). What I do remember, however, is trying to go to sleep later that night – and even two or three nights following -  and being absolutely buzzing with the imaginings running through my brain. If only I could be trapped overnight in a shopping mall, preferably with a friend or two. We could run up the down escalator! Drop rubber balls from the top floor all the way to the courtyard and fountains four storeys down! We could take every pillow in the bedding department and make the world’s most comfortable fort. We could work the soft serve machine with our own hands and make ourselves sick! Makeovers in the makeup department! Cover the sporting goods department floor in basketballs, baseballs, golf balls, softballs, soccer balls, volleyballs and more – and then corral them all down an escalator! Dress up and hold still and pretend to be a mannequin during an epic game of hide and seek!

I lay there, clutching the bedsheets in my damp little hands, willing my fevered brain to slow, to stop the dizzying cavalcade of wistful possibility from keeping me awake. In summary, it was a mammoth fantasy of my childhood to be trapped inside such a place, and given free rein, if only for one night, and next-day consequences be damned. I often thought it would be a wonderful grand prize for some kind of childhood contest.

Now that I am an adult, of course, my tastes have matured, and I’ve grown too discerning and reserved for such flights of fancy.

David Willis, Texan tourist, squanderer of golden opportunities (photo: Twitter)

David Willis, squanderer of golden opportunities (photo: Twitter)

The previous statement is of course a lie, and the reason I could only shake my head in mute disappointment at Texas resident David Willis (pictured, right), who on Thursday, October 16th, had been browsing through the stacks in London’s famed Waterstone’s bookshop in London (Trafalgar Square, no less), when he realized he had been missed by the store’s employees, and the store was now closed for the night. The lights were out, and he was the only soul in the place.

This is where the story should go: Mr. Willis, delighted at his predicament and recognizing his  absolutely once-in-a-blue-moon good fortune, could hardly decide where to begin.  First, he took a moment to simply breathe, and stretch, and take in his surroundings. He listened to the silence, he scanned the room, and eventually tested his solitude with one brave “Hallo?”. Hearing nothing in return but his own echo bounced back to him off the spines of hundreds, and hundreds, and thousands of books, still on their shelves and waiting for him – David Willis embarked on the best night of his life.

Imagine – the shop closed at 9pm. Even if it opened again at 7 am (which is very early), Willis could have had 10 full hours of perusing an almost unending supply of books, with nobody to distract him. No other customers jostling his elbow or making conversation; no staff trying to sell him something or repeatedly inquiring whether he needed help; no spouse, no children, no television even. Just a glorious, uninterrupted ten hours of books. And he was on vacation, so no work the next day!  Nothing to do the next day but amble back to his hotel for some well-deserved sleep, and to prepare how best to tell his wonderful story.

Sadly, that is not where the story went, in real life. In actuality, David Willis tried the door, set off the alarm, spoke to store security, called the police, and even resorted to taking a photo of the inside of the darkened store and tweeting it out to the Twitterverse as a last cry for help. At last, his pleas were heard, and he was released. All told, he spent only two hours in the store.

I must admit, I would have absolutely no idea where to start or what to read. But I would start, eventually, and I would read. I can’t help but feel this was an enormous waste of a rare opportunity. Still, I suppose not everyone shared my childhood fantasies.

What would you read if you had a full night, uninterrupted, and a vast landscape of books at hand?


Signed Aussie First Edition of Flanagan’s Booker-winner sells for $1,313

Signed True Australian first edition first impression of The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

As of this writing, it has only been 40 hours or so since Australian author Richard Flanagan’s novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North was announced the winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. In that time, we at AbeBooks have enjoyed watching the flurry of activity on the web site. Whenever there is a big literary prize announcement, copies disappear, people scramble for signed copies, copies inscribed by the author suddenly triple in value, and we watch our inventory plummet as readers, eager to investigate a name new to them, snap up all the books they can get their hands on.

And The Narrow Road to the Deep North has not disappointed. Since the late Tuesday afternoon (PST) announcement, we’ve sold an impressive number of Richard Flanagan books, mostly, of course, the prize-winner. The biggest sale so far was for a signed copy of the true Australian first edition, first impression published by Knopf. Described by the bookseller as “uber scarce”, this copy was in mint, unread condition, and signed by Richard Flanagan himself. The rare find sold for $1,313 USD (approx. $1,500 AUD). There is currently one more signed copy of the true Australian first/first for sale on this site, priced at $1,800 USD (approx $2,050 AUD.) Thirty other signed copies of The Narrow Road have also sold since the Booker announcement.

If the $1,800 true first/first is out of your price range, but you’d still like a little collectible something, there are currently 10 signed copies of The Narrow Road to the Deep North available for sale on the site (for as low as $100 at the moment), as well as  91 copies of signed Richard Flanagan novels in general.

We have also seen sales of Flanagan’s other books, including Death of a River Guide, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Gould’s Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish, The Unknown Terrorist and Wanting. And the interest was far from limited to proud Australians – copies crossed the ocean in all directions, to the hands of plenty of international admirers as well.

It’s a good week to be Richard Flanagan.

Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North 2014 Booker Winner

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan - 2014 Man Booker Prize Winner
The votes are in!

Congratulations to Australian author Richard Flanagan, whose novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North has been announced the winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. Not only is Flanagan now £50,000 (approximately $80,000 USD) richer, but he is now virtually guaranteed to be in the eye of the literary community, and with a full calendar of readings for at least a few years to come. We’ll all be watching for what’s next. Here is some more about The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma Death Railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. His life is a daily struggle to save the men under his command from starvation, cholera and pitiless beatings. Until he receives a letter that will change him forever. Moving deftly from the POW camp to contemporary Australia, from the experiences of Dorrigo and his comrades to those of the Japanese guards, this novel tells a story of love, death, and family, exploring the many forms of good and evil, war and truth, and guilt.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North is Flanagan’s sixth novel, preceded by Death of a River Guide, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Gould’s Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish, The Unknown Terrorist and Wanting.

Currently, signed copies of The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan are affordable and not too scarce, but if you want one, act immediately because announcements like these do tend to send prices quickly skyward.

The Booker Prize was first awarded in 1969, and goes to the judges’ determination of best English language full-length novel published in the UK.

Kudos as well to the five runners-up:

The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
It is 1967, Calcutta. Unnoticed by his family, Supratik has become dangerously involved in student unrest, agitation, extremist political activism. Compelled by an idealistic desire to change his life and the world around him, all he leaves behind is this note. ‘Ma, I feel exhausted with consuming, with taking and grabbing and using. I am so bloated that I feel I cannot breathe any more. I am leaving to find some air, some place where I shall be able to purge myself, push back against the life given me and make my own. I feel I live in a borrowed house. It’s time to find my own… — Forgive me…’.’
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and our narrator, Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I spent the first 18years of my life defined by this one fact: that I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she says. “It’s never going to be the first thing I share with someone. I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion, I’d scarcely known a moment alone. She was my twin, my fun-house mirror, my whirlwind other half, and I loved her as a sister.”

J by Howard Jacobson
J by Howard Jacobson
Set in the future, J is a love story of incomparable strangeness, both tender and terrifying. Two people fall in love, not yet knowing where they have come from or where they are going. Kevern doesn t know why his father always drew two fingers across his lips when he said a world starting with a J. It isn’t the time or place to be asking questions. Ailinn too has grown up in the dark about who she was or where she came from. On their first date Kevern kisses the bruises under her eyes. Brutality has grown commonplace.Hanging over the lives of all the characters in this novel is a momentous catastrophe – a past event shrouded in suspicion, denial and apology, now referred to as What Happened, If It Happened. J is a novel to be talked about in the same breath as Nineteen Eighty Four and Brave New World.

How to be Both by Ali Smith / signed copies
How to Be Both by Ali Smith
A novel all about art’s versatility. Borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it s a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There s a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There s the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real – and all life’s givens get given a second chance. Smith can make anything happen, which is why she is one of our most exciting writers today .

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris / signed copies
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris
Paul O’Rourke is a man made of contradictions: he loves the world, but doesn’t know how to live in it. He’s a Luddite addicted to his iPhone, a dentist with a nicotine habit, a rabid Red Sox fan devastated by their victories, and an atheist not quite willing to let go of God. Then someone begins to impersonate Paul online, and he watches in horror as a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account are created in his name. What begins as an outrageous violation of his privacy soon becomes something more soul-frightening: the possibility that the online Paul might be a better version of the real thing.

Bill Murray’s Favorite Book (and Others)

Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain - Bill Murray's Favorite Book

One thing about readers – we love to share our passion for books. Whether it’s an amazing find of a first edition, a fantastic new author discovery, or a reissued edition of a childhood favorite, it’s just not as good if you can’t share it. And learning which books we have in common with other people is part of the fun. Flavorwire created a post of 50 Cultural Icons on Their Favorite Books. It appears to be gleaned from all different sources and interviews, but includes the likes of Bill Murray (Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain), Joan Didion (Victory by Joseph Conrad) Michelle Obama (Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison), Dolly Parton (The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper), Robin Williams (Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy), James Franco (As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner), Kit Harrington (Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell) and many more.

And like the true book nerd that I am, I was very excited to read that one of JK Rowling’s favorite books is The Woman Who Walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle, because it’s one of mine, too. Doyle’s skill at creating a real person – I can’t even say character – is to be deeply admired.

See all 50 favorite books.

Patrick Modiano Wins 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature

Paris Tendresse, Patrick Modiano, Brassai

French novelist Patrick Modiano has won the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature. Modiano, 69, is no stranger to accolades. His previous awards include the Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 2012, as well as a lifetime achievement award in 2010 from the Institut de France. Individual novels have also been recognized with prizes, including the highly prized Goncourt Prize for his book “Missing Person“. “Missing Person” is perhaps also Modiano’s best-known work, though the historical author is quite prolific, with nearly 30 published works so far. If you’re looking to read Patrick Modiano books written in English, there are far fewer copies available, but there are still enough to get a great start on his catalog.

While he himself was not born until 1945, much of Modiano’s work is nevertheless inspired by the Nazi occupation of France. Much of his finest writing details, down to the minutiae, the lives of regular French citizenry and the impact the war had on their day-to-day lives. His writing’s uniqueness comes, in part, from a balance between highly detailed, highly thorough description of the mundane, and a sense of mystery and ambiguity for situations and plotlines. That fondness for mystery has coined him his very own literary term. In France, if a scenario or character is particularly open-ended, it can be said to be “modianesque”.

Despite his popularity, prolific output and celebrated success, Modiano himself is sadly not as thrilled with his choice of profession as his fans are. He has stated for the media in the past that his writing is more a curse than a gift to him, that he feels feverishly compelled to write and dreams of being free of the burden.

remise-de-peine-modiano While perhaps not as well-known as last year’s winner Alice Munro, Modiano is nonetheless a more far-reaching choice than some winners in previous years. If you’re not familiar with him or his work, you’re probably not French – while Modiano is a lesser-known name elsewhere, within his home country he is very famous and widely regarded as one of France’s best writers. He prefers to stay out of the spotlight, however, and is a very private person, giving few interviews and attending few galas. As such, books signed by Patrick Modiano are extremely rare, with not a single Patrick Modiano autograph for sale on AbeBooks (which is rare indeed).

Some Modiano titles are collectible, and prices are sure to climb with today’s announcement. The most expensive Patrick Modiano book ever sold on AbeBooks was a copy of Remise de Peine. The first edition, limited to 55 numbered copies, sold for $721. I think we can expect to see some more expensive sales in the coming days and weeks.

Modiano is the 15th Nobel Prize-winner of France.

Kelliegram Binding Copy of Through The Looking Glass

I’ve written before about how delicious Kelliegram Bindings are, and this example is surely no exception. This 1873 edition of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There is done in the traditional Kelliegram style, with gorgeous, rich, full colour leather. The front and back boards boast inlaid leather art as well.

Rather than depicting the more usual characters of the white rabbit or Alice herself, the binder chose the less often celebrated (and more ovoid) Humpty-Dumpty for the front boards, and the walrus for the back boards. The boards are also stamped and decorated with gilt. The text itself is generously sprinkled throughout with 50 illustrations by John Tenniel, including a full-page, tissue-guarded frontispiece.



2014 Giller Prize Shortlist

The shortlist is out! Canada’s most prestigious literary honour, The Giller Prize, was established in 1994. That’s a full two decades of recognition and reward each year to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English. The prize sees cash being awarded to the winner and each of the four other finalists. This year, the 20th anniversary of the prize, marks a significant increase in prize money, with the winning prize doubling from $50,000 to $100,000, and the finalist prizes doubling from $5,000 to $10,000.

Without further ado, here are the six fin alists for the 2014 Giller Prize:

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather ONeill

The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis
Tell by Frances Itani
Us Conductors by Sean Michaels
The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
The Ever After of Ashwin Rao by Padma Viswanathan

And Montreal’s Heather O’Neill has made the shortlist! Wonderful. O’Neill published her debut novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals in 2006 to much critical acclaim, and The Girl Who Was Saturday Night is her first novel since.

Stay tuned – we’ll find out who wins the hundred grand and the title on November 10th. Congratulations and good luck to all the finalists.

Antiquarian Treasures: 1776 Illuminated Genealogy Manuscript from Spain

We really do come across the most marvelous and unique books and ephemera here on AbeBooks. Today’s wonderful find of an amazing book is this beautifully bound 1776 legal manuscript, from Spain.



It is hand-lettered by don Ramon Zazo of Ortega, the scribe, historian and official herald and genealogist for the Spanish crown during the reign of Charles III. This lovely illuminated manuscript is bound in torn, nicked but nevertheless gorgeous leather. It boasts remarkable decoration and detail, from its coloured illuminations to the handwritten letters, the gilt on its covers, and the adornments of individual pages. Making reference to the city of Seville, this antiquarian gem, from a time when as much attention was paid to aesthetic as to content, is a dream for any rare book collector. It appears to be a study in genealogy, exploring the lineage and origins of the Spanish name/family Larrea in the 18th century. Regardless, it is certainly a most unusual and beautiful antiquarian book. More pictures below.