Like Edgar Allan Poe and the American film noir, William Faulkner enjoyed a critical reception in France that anticipated his American audience by several years. While not the first critics to admire Faulkner’s writing, readers like Maurice Coindreau, Andre Malraux, and Jean-Paul Sartre were among the earliest readers to recognize a particular quality to his fiction, one that, especially in the case of certain novels, evaded Faulkner’s contemporary American readers. As certain examples of this cross-cultural acceptance demonstrate, such as Baudelair’s translation of Poe in the nineteenth century and his exalting of Poe as a poetic genius, or Raymond Borde and Emile Chaumenton’s embrace of the fatalistic atmosphere and disquieting mise en scene of America’s postwar, B-movie cycle for which they coined the name film noir, French thinkers have often been more receptive to what was startling or new in American cultural expression. In these cases, something dark or ‘unwholesome’ attached to the American object of French inquiry. Whether or not the French acceptance of these elements was owed to a beneficial distance from the object—true to an extent of all transatlantic or cross-cultural exchanges—it is the case that Poe and the noir became what they are due to French intervention.

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Copyright © 2007 The Austrian Academy of Sciences. This chapter first appeared in Transatlantic Visions: The American South in Europe, Europe in the American South.

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