The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2020

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MAR 2020 Issue

inSerial: part fifteen
The Mysteries of Paris

5. Concerning François Germain

Baron de Graün continued:

“About 18 months ago, a young man by the name of François Germain arrived in Paris from Nantes, where he had been employed by the banking firm of Noël & Company.

Based on statements made by the Schoolmaster and several letters found on him, it appears that the scoundrel to whom he had entrusted his son for the sole purpose of corrupting him, so he might one day be of use to his criminal activities, revealed the terrible plot to the young man when he suggested that he assist them in an attempted robbery and forgery at the firm of Noël & Company, where François Germain worked.

The young man rejected the offer with indignation. But not wishing to betray the man who had raised him, he wrote an anonymous letter to his superior, informing him of the conspiracy that was underway, and secretly left Nantes to escape the men who had tried to make him the instrument and accomplice of their crimes.

These scoundrels, learning of Germain’s departure, traveled to Paris, met with Bras-Rouge and set off in pursuit of the young man, no doubt with sinister intentions, for he was familiar with their projects. After several unsuccessful attempts, they succeeded in discovering his whereabouts. But it was too late. Germain, having a few days earlier encountered the man who had tried to corrupt him, immediately changed his place of residence, guessing why the man had come to Paris. In this way the Schoolmaster’s son escaped his persecutors one more time.

However, about six weeks ago, these same men learned that he was living at 17 Rue du Temple. One evening, upon returning home, he was nearly the victim of an ambush (the Schoolmaster had hidden this from his Highness).

Germain guessed who was behind this attempt, left Rue du Temple, and disappeared from view. It is at this point in the search that the Schoolmaster was caught and punished. And it is at this point as well that the search was resumed on his Highness’s orders. The results are as follows:

François Germain lived for approximately three months at 17 Rue du Temple, a rather curious residence considering the customs and occupations of its inhabitants. Germain was well liked for his character –– he was lively, helpful, and open. Although he appeared to subsist on a very modest income, he had squandered large sums on an indigent family who lived on the top floor of the house. Inquiries were made at the house on Rue du Temple concerning François Germain’s current place of residence and profession, but these were fruitless. It is assumed he was employed in an office or commercial establishment of some kind, for he would leave in the morning and return around 10 at night.

The only person who knows with certainty where the young man is currently living is a tenant at the house on Rue du Temple. This young woman, who appears to have been intimately involved with Germain, is a strikingly attractive grisette [* 186] by the name of Mademoiselle Rigolette. She occupied a room next to the one in which Germain stayed. This room, which has been empty since his departure, is currently for rent. It was under the pretext of wanting to rent the room that this information was discovered.”

“Rigolette?” Murph suddenly exclaimed, after ruminating for several moments. “Rigolette? I know that name.”

“What’s that? Sir Walter Murph,” resumed the baron with a laugh, “the worthy and respected family man, consorts with grisettes? How is it that you know the name of Mlle Rigolette?”

“Blast! His Highness has put me in the position of having such strange acquaintances that you should hardly be surprised by this one, Baron. Wait a moment. Yes, now I remember. His Highness, when he told me about La Goualeuse, couldn’t help laughing at the name of Rigolette. As I recall, she was a friend Fleur-de-Marie had made in prison.”

“In that case this Mlle Rigolette may become extremely useful to us. I conclude my report:

It is possible that some advantage might be gained by renting the room on the Rue du Temple. We were not given orders to investigate further, but after a few words with the porter, we have every reason to believe that not only would it be possible to obtain reliable information concerning the Schoolmaster’s son from Mlle Rigolette but his Highness would be able to observe customs, occupations, and especially a form of poverty whose existence are unknown to him.”

This work received support from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States through their publishing assistance program.


Eugène Sue

French author, Eugène Sue (1804 – 1857) was born near the city of Cannes in southern France and came from a distinguished family of doctors. Like his father, Sue also studied medicine. He began his career as a naval doctor but retired in 1829 to write.

In 1842 he began writing Les Mystères de Paris, a novel in parts published serially in Le Journal des Débats. It was the first time in a novel that readers had been exposed to the social agitation and mixing of classes experienced in the bars and cabarets of Paris’s dense core on Ile de la Cité.

His complete works, depending on the edition, run to 78 volumes.

Robert Bononno

ROBERT BONONNO is credited with the translation of over two dozen full-length works of fiction and nonfiction and numerous shorter pieces. These include René Crevel’s My Body and I—a finalist for the 2005 French-American Foundation Prize—Hervé Guibert’s Ghost Image, and Henri Raczymo’s Swan’s Way. In 2002 he received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to complete a translation of the non-fiction work of Isabelle Eberhardt and in 2010 he received an NEA grant for the retranslation of Eugène Sue’s classic crime novel, The Mysteries of Paris. Mr. Bononno’s latest translation, Pascal Kramer’s Autopsy of a Father, was recently published by Bellevue Literary Press.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2020

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