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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Count d'Orgel's Ball

Raymond Radiguet

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To purchase Count d'Orgel's Ball

Title: Count d'Orgel's Ball
Author: Raymond Radiguet
Genre: Novel
Written: (1924) (Eng. 1989)
Length: 163 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Count d'Orgel's Ball - US
Count d'Orgel's Ball - UK
Count d'Orgel's Ball - Canada
Le Bal du comte d'Orgel - Canada
Count d'Orgel's Ball - India
Le Bal du comte d'Orgel - France
Der Ball des Comte d'Orgel - Deutschland
Il ballo del conte d'Orgel - Italia
  • French title: Le Bal du comte d'Orgel
  • Translated by Annapaola Cancogni
  • Foreword by Jean Cocteau
  • Previously translated as The Count's Ball (Malcolm Cowley, 1929) and Count d'Orgel Opens the Ball (Violet Schiff, 1952; now also published as Count d'Orgel)

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Our Assessment:

B+ : sharp character- and relationship-study

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The LA Times . 2/7/1989 Sonja Bolle
The NY Times Book Rev.* . 5/4/1953 Frances Keene
Der Spiegel . 23/9/1953 .
Time* . 30/3/1953 .
TLS . 14/8/1924 Mary Duclaux
TLS* . 1/8/1952 Anthony Powell
TLS* . 17/1/1975 Paul Bailey

*: review refers to a different translation

  From the Reviews:
  • "His second novel appears here in a new translation that captures the deceptive simplicity of Radiguet's style. (...) It is an absolutely innocent story in the sense that the affair is never consummated. Although it lacks the cold-blooded calculation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, the tale yet contains a distinct undercurrent of decadence that comes from the willing self-deception and manipulation in all three characters. All the participants can persuade themselves of the innocence of their actions." - Sonja Bolle, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Wie das Finale auch gemeint sei: die Wirkung dieses ganz ohne Leidenschaft und wie nebenbei gegebenen Berichts einer tragischen Liebe auf einem Schauplatz, über dem die Schlagschatten zweier Kriege liegen -- diese Wirkung ist unbestreitbar ohne Beispiel." - Der Spiegel

  • "Radiguet can make a reader forget everything but the cool grace of his art, in which he is a cameoist of sensibilities, a Watteau of the heart." - Time

  • "Yet it is hardly a story. It is a study of character -- an inquiry into the unsuspected inroads of a nascent passion." - Mary Duclaux, Times Literary Supplement

  • "This adroit translation of the latter book does not obscure the sources from which the novel derives, and the use of these sources is one of the most interesting aspects of the writing." - Anthony Powell, Times Literary Supplement

  • "This version of his second, and last, novel is as inelegant as it is ungrammatical -- Violet Schiff's wayward way with a comma is worth an article in itself. (...) The novel is a serious study of the passions of frivolous people. (...) (I)t seems to present a way of life and a period of history more truthfully than many more socially-committed works of the same time have done." - Paul Bailey, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Count d'Orgel's Ball is set shortly after the First World War. Like true nobility, Count Anne d'Orgel isn't quite of this world: times may be tough, but he and his circle are able to continue to live in a fantasy world. Indeed, the entire novel is set in a world of demimonde decadence -- excused because:

It is precisely in times of trouble that frivolity, and even license, can best be understood. Everybody tries to get the most out of what is theirs now but may not be so tomorrow.
       D'Orgel's sense of entitlement, however, leaves little room for any doubts -- and so his blindness extends not only to the world around him, but also to that which is closest to him, his wife, Mahaut. Charmed by François de Séryeuse -- who does not try so hard to become part of the count's circle as his friend, Paul Robin (whose: "obsession was to 'arrive'"), does -- , d'Orgel become close friends with the young man. François is willingly pulled into the orbit of the d'Orgels, but finds himself also strongly attracted to the countess -- and she to him. They dance around the issue awkwardly in numerous encounters, and Radiguet cruelly teases them (and readers) along in this novel of not-quite-fulfillment.
     One eveing, as they were driving to the theater, François, who was as usual squeezed in between his two friends, trying to get a little more elbow room slipped his arm behind Mme d'Orgel's. Horrified at a gesture that was more his arm's than his own, he did not dare withdraw the culprit. Mme d'Orgel realized it was a mechanical gesture. For fear of giving it an importance it did not have, she also dared not withdraw her arm. François understood Mahaut's delicacy and that it did not imply encouragement. Thus both remained motionless and terribly embarrassed.
       D'Orgel is a man of great enthusiasms and used to getting his way -- and everyone following along; François is glad to go with the flow, but, unlike most others, doesn't try too hard to ingratiate himself (and is better off when he lets things take their course: his rare attempts at guiding the action, as when he tries to keep the d'Orgels from his mother, usually wind up in near disaster). A few secondary characters entertainingly add to the picture, from the Persian "indefatigable pleasure-seeker" Mirza, a cousin of the Shah, to hapless Paul Robin (about whom Radiguet notes: "Had he read fewer nineteenth-century novels he might have been quite charming").
       Count d'Orgel's Ball proceeds and is presented like a game, but one in which the players are unsure of the objective or even the rules. They are even unwilling to take definitive steps, preferring indirect ones, or even avoidance: when, at the end, Mahaut tells her husband she must talk to him before he goes to bed he dallies, hoping she: "would be asleep by the time he walked into her room". Turn after turn, Radiguet describes the small events and get-togethers, and the subtle shifts in how the players stand in relation to one another; none are able to break free or break through. Almost inevitably, too, the ending is inconclusive, with the ball of the title still to come.
       Count d'Orgel's Ball is an amusing small novel, and much of the pleasure comes from Radiguet's fine style and presentation -- remarkably refined and adroit for a twenty-year-old. The novel is more than just a period-piece, and quite successful in its ambitions (and frustrations).

- M.A.Orthofer, 22 May 2011

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Count d'Orgel's Ball: Reviews: Raymond Radiguet: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Raymond Radiguet lived 1903 to 1923.

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