The 'free verses' of prodigy Raymond Radiguet, who died at an early age, are surrounded with riddles. They are pornographic in nature: young girls are deflowered in Vers libres, climbing into bed with girlfriends or being thrashed by a general. The collection was first published by René Bonnel in 1926, three years after Radiguet's death. His next of kin, his relatives and his friend Jean Cocteau, vehemently denied that the poems had been written by Radiguet. Such frivolous work didn't fit the profile of literary genius, which Jean Cocteau believed his lover to be. Not until after Cocteau's death did the family confirm that Radiguet had indeed been the author of this work.
Not only did the writer's true identity remain unclear for a long time, but the publisher and illustrator were also shrouded in mystery. No fewer than three editions of Vers libres appeared in the 1930s, all bearing a false imprint. For two of those editions, both from 'Au Panier fleuri', the erotic illustrations were attributed to Rojan or Rojankovsky (1891-1970), who later became famous for his illustrations for children's books, but who also produced erotic works during his years spent in Paris. The well-known comic book Idylle printanière, also known as Paris spring, for instance is alleged to be his work.
Sweet and shameless
The edition of Vers libres, of which there is a copy in the Koopman Collection, probably wasn't illustrated by Rojan, but by an imitator of his. Girls are pictured in bright colours, performing various sexual acts with innocent expressions on their faces. The obscenity is mostly in the contrast between the school children's adorable faces and their shamelessly displayed lower regions. The illustrator produced a total number of twenty-eight drawings- including the cover -, some of which take up two pages.
This edition was probably published around 1939 by 'La Varenne, A la Corne d'Abondance'. The 'horn of plenty' is symbolised on the title page by a horn filled with phalluses. According to the preface, the poem 'Les fiancés de treize ans' was printed based on the manuscript by Radiguet, but that is incorrect: this edition is also based on the version printed by Bonnel in 1926. Truly every aspect of this book is obscure or deceptive.
|Description:||Vers libres / Raymond Radiguet ; ill. attribueés à Rojankovsky dit Rojan. - La Varenne : A la Corne d'Abondance, [ca. 1939]. -  p. : ill. ; 34 cm|
|This copy:||Number 5 of 300 on vélin|
|Bibliography:||Monod 9452 ; Pascal Pia 1385/86|
|Shelfnumber:||Koopm K 301|
- Margareth Crosland, Raymond Radiguet: a biographical study with selections from his work. London, Owen, 1976
- Monique Nemer, Raymond Radiguet. Paris, Fayard, 2002
- Pascal Pia, Les livres de l'enfer: Bibliographie critique des ouvrages érotiques dans leurs différentes éditions du XVIe siècle à nos jours. Paris, Fayard, 1998
- Chloé Radiguet, Julien Cendres, Raymond Radiguet: Un jeune homme sérieux dans les années folles. Paris, Mille et une nuits, 2003