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Maurice Druon, RIP

French novelist, historian, and World War II resistance fighter Maurice Druon has died at 90. He lived a pretty extraordinary life. You can read his obit here:


I never had the honor of meeting M. Druon, and I have not even read all of his work (yet). But I am a huge fan of his best known novels, the wonderful "Accursed Kings" series of historical novels. I have often said that my own SONG OF ICE AND FIRE was inspired as much by historical fiction as by fantasy, and Druon's series was one of my major inspirations (along with the work of other favorites like Thomas B. Costain, Mika Waltari, Bernard Cornwell, and many more). The ACCURSED KINGS is great stuff. Philip the Fair, the Curse of the Templars, the end of the Capetians and the roots of the Hundred Years War... I don't read French, but even in translation these are great reads. (Although I don't believe the last volume has ever been published in English, which some publisher should rectify).

Every writer hopes that he will still be read after his death. Here's your chance to make M. Druon's dream come true, and do yourself a favor at the same time. Go off to ebay or ABE books and find yourself a copy of THE IRON KING, the first volume of the series. You won't regret it.


( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
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Apr. 17th, 2009 08:11 am (UTC)
The Accursed Kings
Quand un Roi perd la France is clearly a later addition (I would call it an estrambote), in a different style, and in my opinion is to the saga as The Phantom Menace was to Star Wars, but the first six books are really entangling. Plus you get a free French history lesson...
Apr. 17th, 2009 08:13 am (UTC)
I love it when you do this...though it's too bad to learn about this author through his death. Even so, your suggested readings have kept me occupied for many hours.

Apr. 17th, 2009 08:25 am (UTC)
Maudits ! Maudits jusqu'à la treizième génération de vos races !
Long time reader, first time poster.

M Martin, I can't begin to tell you how moved I was by your post. As a French reader and fan of yours, I've always wondered if you knew of this masterpiece that is "The Accursed Kings".
When I encourage people around me to read ASoIoF (which happens quite often !), I always tell them : it's like "The Accursed Kings" with a measure of fantasy thrown in. It usually works !

I urge all your readers to read these books and to watch the TV series that was made in the early 70's (not too sure if they are available in NTSC format though).

Once again, thank you for your post. It made may day !

Apr. 17th, 2009 08:27 am (UTC)
Apr. 17th, 2009 09:15 am (UTC)
"The Hundred Years War" from Jean Favier
I may recommend you another French writer: Jean Favier. He is as famous as Maurice Druon as historic writer. He wrote many books about French middle Age period, and "The Hundred Years War" is as great as "Accursed Kings".
May be some of his books were translated, but I couldn't find for "The Hundred Years War" (La guerre de cent ans) which is the overall resume. Awesome. This has many similar point to Song of Ice of Fire for its credibility, details, etc. You open the book and you can't close it before the end of the night...

Apr. 17th, 2009 09:23 am (UTC)
That is very sad indeed. A fine writer.
Apr. 17th, 2009 09:31 am (UTC)
I've often wondered how you created such a realistic medieval world. I assumed you had done a lot of research, but it's interesting to get a behind the scenes glimpse at what you were reading.

I've always thought the Académie Française was a bizarre institution. Who actually thinks you can arbitrate language? The French, apparently.
Apr. 17th, 2009 10:23 am (UTC)
I think that Les Rois Maudits is a saga that marked the French - although, I didn't read it... yet - there has been 2 series - one, old and wonderful and a new from last year, that you have to avoid at all cost. Druon was a great author though - he will be missed. It is a fascinating period of our history, so I guess that it also adds to the story ^^

As for the Académie Française, it is important because French is such a tricky language - lots of grammar points, lots of expressions. I write in French very well and I still learn/relearn points every month or so - I am the kind of people who is unbearably perfectionist though.
Because, it's not because people think that something is written one way that it's true. The most peculiar example would be "Au temps pour moi" that people most often write "Autant pour moi" which is simply wrong (but you pronounce it the same way and the second could make sense, sooooo...). Tricky is tricky, French needs an institution to pinpoint those kind of things.
(no subject) - infinite_hiatus - Apr. 17th, 2009 11:00 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - escarboucle - Apr. 17th, 2009 12:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 17th, 2009 09:38 am (UTC)
Yes, Druon's books are top-of-the-range - and I agree with Arthegarn: the last volume is much weaker, not at all in the same style of writing and not as riveting, in my humble opinion.
If you liked Druon's "The accursed Kings" series, you will probably also love "Fortune de France" by Robert Merle. Don't know if it's been translated in English. This is also a series that tells the adventures of a young impoverished noble during the fall of the last of the Valois dynasty and the advent of the Bourbons, during the civil wars between the Protestants and the Catholics. An absolute treat! This web article seems to imply it hasn't been translated: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Merle ... too bad!
Apr. 17th, 2009 11:18 am (UTC)
Ah, the "Accursed kings"... I owe them some good grades in History since my teacher in Primary School was quite impressed with my knowledge, even if it was acquired from Druon's books and not textbooks. Methinks it may be time for a reread.

RIP, Monsieur Druon.
Apr. 17th, 2009 11:39 am (UTC)
Can't Find His Books
I am frustrated... our local Metropolitan library system has zero of his books, on Amazon, they start at $120 used and eBay doesn't have The Iron King at all... the books sound intriguing, do you have any pull to get them republished? :o)
Apr. 17th, 2009 11:44 am (UTC)
French TV made an absolutely wonderful serialisation of the novels in the 1970s. When most historical series went with sumptuous costumes and extravagant sets (and still do), these were filmed almost like a theatrical event, with bare, stripped sets, perhaps with just a few medieval chairs, and many effects created by lighting, sharply angled on bare faces ...

You focused completely on the plot, and the characters - haunted, agonised, scheming, and sometimes downright evil. It was a terrific retelling of the novels (which I promptly read in translation).

I saw them originally with subtitles; when I saw them twenty years later, I was delighted to discover they hadn't dated in the way some costume drama does, as you become aware that Robin Hood's hairstyle is so nineteen fifties, or Anne Boleyn's beauty is very 1960s. And, even though I was attempting to follow them with my poor French this time, they were still riveting.

Apr. 17th, 2009 11:47 am (UTC)
That's all very true! One of my all time fave authors!

In Russian there were all Accursed Kings books published I think.
Apr. 17th, 2009 12:47 pm (UTC)
Read these books when I was about 14 or 15, after finding them in a library and devoured them. That was 20 years ago now, but they still had a tremendous impact, regardless of how young I was.
Apr. 17th, 2009 01:26 pm (UTC)
The Iron King
Just to help folks out, The Iron King has another title since it's translation- The Ardent Infidels.

Good luck.
Apr. 17th, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC)
My forlorn hope is that someone will re-issue the series (as has been done with MZB's works). Right now it is nearly impossible to get the Accursed books from either re-sellers or libraries in English. But then I also dream of a subtitled issue of the French mini-series of the books, too. I'm an incurable optimist.

Le *sigh.*
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