The inferno novel by Henri Barbusse PDF ebook

The inferno by Henry Barbusse 1918 

The inferno by Henry Barbusse -  Cover by Adam sherif
The inferno novel by Henri Barbusse

The narrator, unmarried and friendless, books a room in a Paris boarding house. By chance, he finds a hole in his wall, through which he can see the adjoining room and its inhabitants. From the other side, he witnesses lesbianism, adultery, incest, thievery, vicious proselytizing, and death, musing to the reader on the philosophical implications of the events he witnesses.

His voyeurism eventually convinces him to quit his room and find a fulfilling life of his own, but as he attempts to leave he is crippled with backache and blindness.

Hell was notably popular and widely discussed in France, selling more than a hundred thousand copies in 1917 alone. Colin Wilson gave considerable attention to Barbusse's novel in his influential work The Outsider.

Excerpt from the book introduction:

In introducing M. Barbusse's most important book to a public already familiar with "Under Fire," it seems well to point out the relation of the author's philosophy to his own time, and the kinship of his art to that of certain other contemporary French and English novelists. "L'Enfer" has been more widely read and discussed in France than any other realistic study since the days of Zola. , 

The French sales of the volume, in 1917 alone, exceeded a hundred thousand copies, popularity all the more remarkable from the fact that its appeal is based as much on its philosophical substance as on the story which it tells. Although M. Barbusse is one of the most distinguished contemporary French writers of short stories, he has found in the novel form the most fitting literary medium for the expression of his philosophy, and it is to realism rather than romanticism that he turns for the exposition of his special imaginative point of view. And yet this statement seems to need some qualification.

In his introduction to "Pointed Roofs," by Dorothy Richardson, Mr. J. D. Beresford points out that a new objective literary method is becoming general in which the writer's strict detachment from his objective subject matter is united to a tendency, impersonal, to be sure, to immerse himself in the life surrounding his characters. Miss May Sinclair points out that writers are beginning to take the complete plunge for the first time, and instances as examples, not only the novels of Dorothy Richardson but those of James Joyce. 

Now it is perfectly true that Miss Richard- son and Mr. Joyce have introduced this method into English fiction, and that Mr. Frank Swinnerton has carried the method a step further in another direction, but before these writers, there was a precedent in France for this method, of which perhaps the two chief exemplars were Jules Romains and Henri Barbusse. 

Although the two writers have little else in common, both are intensely conscious of the tremendous, if imponderable, im- pact of elemental and universal forces upon personality, of the profound modifications which natural and social environment unconsciously impress upon the individual life, and of the continual interaction of forces by which the course of life is changed more fundamentally than by less imperceptible influences. 

This book is a translation of  L'Enfer by Henri Barbusse.

Translated by Edward J. O'Brien.

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