J’irai cracher sur vos tombes and the Série Noire

Pseudonymy, pseudo-translation, pseudo-parody

Francosphères (2016), 5, (1), 81–101.


The aim of this article is two-fold. On the one hand, it is designed to revisit and shed new light on a question that has long been the focus of Boris Vian studies, which is to say the relationship between the actual author and his virtual, pseudonymous Other, Vernon Sullivan, via a close reading of the most famous of the Sullivan novels, J’irai cracher sur vos tombes (1946), and especially the liminal passage between the novel’s paratext and diegesis. On the other hand, it will argue that this famous parody of the Série Noire is rather a pseudo-parody insofar as its deployment of pseudonymy exposes not the reality but the myth of a Parisian publishing phenomenon founded on the translation of American thrillers. In this way, J’irai cracher sur vos tombes will be reread as an allegory not only of French noir’s emergence from the Liberation of Paris but, more broadly, of France’s position vis-à-vis the United States. We shall first examine the theory of pseudonymy with a view to teasing out a more appropriately complex critical framework to accommodate Vian’s relationship to Sullivan; we shall next investigate J’irai cracher sur vos tombes via some key lenses, including auto-antonymy, mise en abyme and reflexivity as well as the ‘pseudo’; we shall then use these findings to debunk some key myths surrounding the Série Noire more broadly before concluding with a final analysis of the opening pages of Vian’s novel.


Author details

Rolls, Alistair

Vuaille-Barcan, Marie-Laure

Sitbon, Clara