Count d'Orgel’s Ball


“I was in a blazing hurry, like someone who is going to die young and thus works twice as hard.” This quote by one of Raymond Radiguet’s characters could easily be applied to the author himself. In three years, Radiguet (1903−23) published three articles as well as poems and novels, among which Le Diable au corps (The devil in the flesh) was a best seller and became a classic. Le Bal du Comte d’Orgel (Count d'Orgel’s ball), presented here, was Radiguet’s second novel. Written in a style reminiscent of the 18th century, it recounts the affair between François and Mahaut, the wife of the Count d’Orgel. Mahaut and François gradually fall in love. A candid woman, Mahaut admits her feelings to her husband, whose only concern is to avoid a potential scandal. Seeking to keep les angoisses du cœur (the heart’s anguish) at bay, d’Orgel suggests an arrangement which, unbeknownst to him, kills all life within his wife’s heart. The last words of the novel, an order pronounced by the count ("And now, Mahaut, sleep. This I command."), are representative of this story. The novel, fraught with references to such classic novels as Tristan et Yseult (Tristan and Yseult) and La Princesse de Clèves (The Princess of Cleves), was described by Radiguet as follows: “This novel of chaste love will be as salacious in its own way as the most unchaste novel.” Radiguet was only ever able to see the page proofs of his novel, as he died of typhoid fever on December 12, 1923. Le Bal du comte d'Orgel was brought out the following year by the French publisher Grasset.

Last updated: January 8, 2018