This two-volume 1928 edition of Le diable au corps (Devil in the Flesh), Raymond Radiguet’s controversial 1923 novel of extramarital love, is something of a mystery. Though the text is by Radiguet (who regularly denied having written it), this clandestine version gives the author as ‘Le très-recommendable docteur Cazzoné (Andrea de Nerciat), membre extraordinaire de la joyeuse Faculté phallo-coïro-pygo-glottonomique’. To attract all tastes, this attribution thus covers interests phallic, vulvic, posterior and bosomly. The twelve illustrations are similarly mysterious; they have regularly been attributed to Rops, or at least ‘after Rops’, even though the books appeared long after Rops’ death. It would appear that this clandestine edition, published in Brussels by Briard for Poulet-Malassis, reused Rops illustrations which had previously appeared in a nineteenth-century edition of de Sade’s Justine, and were reworked by Auguste Danse (1829–1929).
Le diable au corps is the story of a young married woman, Marthe, who has an affair with sixteen-year-old François while her husband is away fighting at the front, and it provoked scandal in a country that had just been through World War I. Though Radiguet denied it, it was established later that the story was in large part autobiographical, but by that time he was dead, falling victim to typhoid at just twenty years old. It is a remarkable work for such a young writer, its central theme being that of hard-hearted sexual gratification in the midst of a chaotic world where everything may end at a moment’s notice. The novel struck a resounding cultural chord, both when it was published and again, tellingly at the end of the Second World War, when the 1948 film of the book was released, starring Micheline Presle as Marthe and Gérard Philipe as François.