Edmond About, 1828-1885

Portrait
About, by Félix-Henri Giacomotti, 1858 (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg)

Biographical note

French novelist, publicist and journalist. He made his name as an entertaining anti-clerical writer. The satirical Le roi des montagnes (1856; translated into English by Mary Louise Booth as The King of the Mountains) is the best-known of his novels. In Greece, About had noticed that there was a curious understanding between the brigands and police: brigandage was becoming almost a safe and respectable industry. About pushed this idea to invent the story of a brigand chief who converts his business into a registered joint-stock company.

About's commentary on modern Greece, La Grèce contemporaine (1854), was an immediate success. But his Tolla (1855) gave rise to charges of drawing too freely on an earlier Italian novel, Vittoria Savelli (1841). This aroused prejudice against him, and he was the object of numerous attacks. The Lettres d'un bon jeune homme, written to the Figaro under the signature of "Valentin de Quevilly", provoked more animosities. During the next few years, he wrote novels, stories, a play (which failed), a book-pamphlet on the Roman question, many pamphlets on other subjects of the day, innumerable newspaper articles, some art criticisms, rejoinders to the attacks of his enemies, and popular manuals of political economy, L'A B C du travailleur (1868), Le progrès (1864). His more serious novels include Madelon (1863), L'Infâme (1867), the three that form the trilogy of the Vieille Roche (1866), and Le roman d'un brave homme (1880) – a kind of counterblast to the view of the French workman presented in Émile Zola's L'Assommoir. He is best remembered as a farceur, for the books Le nez d'un notaire (1862); Le roi des montagnes (1856); L'homme à l'oreille cassée (1862); Trente et quarante (1858); Le cas de M. Guérin (1862).

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