Le camarade infidèle

Year: 1922

Author: Jean Schlumberger (1877 - 1968)

Publisher: Éditions de la Nouvelle revue française

Le camarade infidèle, cover

Le camarade infidèle (The faithless friend) by essayist and novelist Jean Schlumberger was published in Paris in 1922 by Éditions de la Nouvelle Revue Française. This was not his first book for this publisher, as that had already appeared in 1911 under the title L'Inquiète Paternité. From that time onwards, most of his works would be published by NRF or its successor Gallimard, and with good reason: Schlumberger was one of the founders of the eponymous magazine La Nouvelle Revue Française. The other founders were Jacques Copeau (1879-1949), André Ruyters (1876-1952), André Gide (1869-1951), Henri Ghéon (1875-1944), and Michel Drouin (1871-1943). The first issue was printed in 1908, but that turned out to have been a false start. The enterprise didn't really take off until 1909, and the magazine continues to exist until this very day. It soon became the single defining literary magazine of France, with the term 'literary' signifying far more than literature alone: criticism, art, philosophy and politics were also featured prominently. Schlumberger was one of the editors from 1909 until 1914.

Publisher NRF/Gallimard

In 1911 Gide and Schlumberger founded publisher NRF together with Gaston Gallimard (1881-1975), in order to publish books by editors of the magazine. Usually, publishing businesses founded by enthusiastic and eccentric writers don't survive very long, but the NRF had a different fate. The first editions to appear from NRF were Isabelle by Gide, L'Otage by Paul Claudel, and La mère et l'enfant by Charles-Louis Philippe in 1911. Activities were suspended during World War I, but Gallimard was able to take over the unsold copies of A la recherche du temps perdu from Grasset. Thousands of pages of text were to follow, completing Marcel Proust's masterpiece. Both author and publisher were soon awarded the prix Goncourt in 1919. That same year, the publisher's name was changed to Librairie Gallimard, of which Jacques Rivière became the director. Other big names would later appear on the list of the board of directors, like André Malraux, Jacques Schiffrin and Drieu la Rochelle. The publisher's name was ultimately changed to Éditions Gallimard in 1961. It is the most prestigious French publisher, responsible after World War II for the publications of Sartre and Camus, among others, and therefore the dominant force in literary life.

The appearance of books published by NRF and Gallimard is as recognisable as it is celebrated: a white cover with the author's name, title and publisher's name, partially printed in red. All this is centred within two frames: a black exterior outlining and a double-lined interior frame which isprinted in red. The first of Schlumberger's books published by NRF in 1911 featured this design, and it was printed by the man who designed it: Edouard Verbeke (1881-1954) of The St. Catherine Press Ltd. in Bruges. The printing business was later sold to Gallimard, but it maintained a certain independence. Le camarade infidèle was printed in 1922 by the company of Pigelet and Sons in Orléans. The books published by NRF were later printed by many other printers, but nevertheless maintained a uniform design thanks to their striking use of the two frames on the cover. The publisher's device, the italicised letters 'NRF', were drawn by Schlumberger. At first, the books were not bound, but sewn. Later, in the 1950s, NRF published a series of books in bindings designed by Paul Bonet and others. These were cardboard bindings printed in colourful, modern patterns, which are now coveted collector's items. Several other series of books were also published- each with its own distinctive appearance- so the publisher came to master many genres of literary book editions.


Heroic lie

Schlumberger wrote a series of psychological novels about individuals, which also describe their surrounding milieus, mostly families, in passing. The action in Le camarade infidèle takes place mostly through dialogue. The theme was typical for the period after World War I: the sudden death of a soldier, making him the hero he never was. In reality he didn't die a hero's death, but was killed while retreating. In the eyes of one relative, an old general, he is now a hero; for his fellow soldier, he is a good comrade; however his wife commemorates him in the way she knew him before the war: as an ordinary man. All are in doubt as to whether they should remain faithful to the image they have. Brother Thomas ultimately fights his own battle, one which seems too pure for the others. He holds forth about the heroic lie, and finds that nobody has a right to such lies, and above all that whoever compromizes himself in such a manner forgets that the desire for truth ultimately always reveals itself.

Two copies

The copy in the Koopman Collection is number 719 of the 790 copies printed on Lafuma paper, thereby part of the Édition originale. That isn't a true first edition, but rather a deluxe edition of the first edition. Partial editions like these are sometimes printed in larger sizes, as can be read here in the colophon: 'après impositions spéciales 108 exemplaires' have been printed 'in-4º tellière'. That means that the typesetting was re-done for 108 copies, with wider margins, and printed on quarto-size paper, instead of the usual octavo size. This copy has a simple - routine - autograph dedication from Schlumberger to Koopman.

The Koopman Collection holds a second copy of this book, from the 15th printing, also with a handwritten dedication from the author to L.J. Koopman. This second copy (shelf-mark KW Koopm P 129) is part of the so-called Collection Personnelle, which consists of books that were special to Koopman for a variety of reasons, sometimes because the represented the bond between Koopman and Anny Antoine, such as the plays that they had seen together. It is unclear why the second copy of this book by Schlumberger is included in that category.

Bibliographical description

Description: Le camarade infidèle / Jean Schlumberger. - Éd. orig. - Paris : Éditions de la Nouvelle revue française, 1922. - 197 p. ; 20 cm

Printer: Paul Pigelet & fils (Orleans, Loiret)

Edition: 898 copies

Exemplaire: Number 719 of 790 on Lafuma

Note: With autograph dedication from Schlumberger to Koopman

Bibliography: Mahé III-400

Shelfmark: KW Koopm C 40

Shelfmark second copy: KW Koopm P 129


  • Auguste Anglès, André Gide et le premier groupe de La Nouvelle Revue Française. Paris, Gallimard, 1978-1986
  • Paul van Capelleveen, Sophie Ham, Jordy Joubij, Voices and visions. The Koopman Collection and the Art of the French Book. The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands; Zwolle, Waanders, 2009
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