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Albert (Joseph) Guerard Biography

Albert Guerard comments:

Nationality: American. Born: Houston, Texas, 1914. Education: Stanford University, California, B.A. 1934, Ph.D. 1938; Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, M.A. 1936. Military Service: Served in the Psychological Warfare Branch of the United States Army, 1943-45: Technical Sergeant. Career: Instructor in English, Amherst College, Massachusetts, 1935-36; instructor, assistant professor, and associate professor of English, 1938-54, and professor of English, 1954-61, Harvard University; professor of literature, Stanford University, 1961-85, now emeritus. Awards: Rockefeller fellowship, 1946; Fulbright fellowship, 1950; Guggenheim fellowship, 1956; Ford fellowship, 1959; Paris Review prize, 1963; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1967, 1974; literature award, American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1998. Member: American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Agent: Clyde Taylor, Curtis Brown, 10 Astor Place, New York, New York 10003.



The Past Must Alter. London, Longman, 1937; New York, Holt, 1938.

The Hunted. New York, Knopf, 1944; London, Longman, 1947.

Maquisard: A Christmas Tale. New York, Knopf, 1945; London, Longman, 1946.

Night Journey. New York, Knopf, 1950; London, Longman, 1951.

The Bystander. Boston, Little Brown, 1958; London, Faber, 1959.

The Exiles. London, Faber, 1962; New York, Macmillan, 1963.

Christine/Annette. New York, Dutton, 1985.

Gabrielle: An Entertainment. New York, Fine, 1992.

The Hotel in the Jungle. Stanford, California, CSLI, 1995.

Maquisard: A Christmas Tale. Novato, California, Lyford Books, 1995.

Short Stories

Suspended Sentences. Santa Barbara, California, John Daniel, 1999.

Uncollected Short Stories

"Davos in Winter," in Hound and Horn (Cambridge, Massachusetts), October-December 1933.

"Tragic Autumn," in The Magazine (Beverly Hills, California), December 1933.

"Miss Prindle's Lover," in The Magazine (Beverly Hills, California), February 1934; revised edition, in Wake (Cambridge, Massachusetts), Spring 1948.

"Turista," in The Best American Short Stories of 1947, edited byMartha Foley. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1947.

"The Incubus," in The Dial (New York), vol. 1, no. 2, 1960.

"The Lusts and Gratifications of Andrada," in Paris Review, Summer-Fall 1962.

"On the Operating Table," in Denver Quarterly, Autumn 1966.

"The Journey," in Partisan Review (New Brunswick, New Jersey), Winter 1967.

"The Rabbit and the Tapes," in Sewanee Review (Tennessee), Spring1972.

"The Pillars of Hercules," in Fiction (New York), December 1973.

"Bon Papa Reviendra," in Tri-Quarterly (Evanston, Illinois), Spring1975.

"Post Mortem: The Garcia Incident," in Southern Review (BatonRouge, Louisiana), Spring 1978.

"Diplomatic Immunity," in Sequoia (Stanford, California), Autumn-Winter, 1978.

"The Poetry of Flight," in Northwest Magazine (Portland, Oregon), 22 January 1984.

"The Mongol Orbit," in Sequoia (Stanford, California), CentennialIssue, 1989.


Robert Bridges: A Study of Traditionalism in Poetry. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, and London, Oxford University Press, 1942.

Joseph Conrad. New York, New Directions, 1947.

Thomas Hardy: The Novels and Stories. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1949; London, Oxford University Press, 1950; revised edition, 1964.

André Gide. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, and London, Oxford University Press, 1951; revised edition, 1969.

Conrad the Novelist. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard UniversityPress, 1958; London, Oxford University Press, 1959.

The Triumph of the Novel: Dickens, Dostoevsky, Faulkner. NewYork, Oxford University Press, 1976; London, Oxford University Press, 1977.

The Touch of Time: Myth, Memory, and the Self. Stanford, California, Stanford Alumni Association, 1980.

Editor, Prosateurs Américains de XXe Siécle. Paris, Laffont, 1947.

Editor, The Return of the Native, by Thomas Hardy. New York, HoltRinehart, 1961.

Editor, Hardy: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 1963.

Editor, Perspective on the Novel, special issue of Daedalus (Boston), Spring 1963.

Co-Editor, The Personal Voice: A Contemporary Prose Reader. Philadelphia, Lippincott, 1964.

Editor, Stories of the Double. Philadelphia, Lippincott, 1967.

Editor, Mirror and Mirage. Stanford, California, Stanford AlumniAssociation, 1980.


Manuscript Collection:

Stanford University Library, California.

Critical Studies:

The Modern Novel in America by Frederick Hoffman, Chicago, Regnery, 1951; The Hero with the Private Parts by Andrew Lytle, Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1966; "The Eskimo Motor in the Detection Cell" by Paul West, in Southern Review (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), Winter 1979; The Touch of Time, 1980, "The Past Unrecaptured: The Two Lives of Lya de Putti," in Southern Review (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), Winter 1983, and "Divided Selves," in Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series 2 edited by Adele Sarkissian, Detroit, Gale, 1985, all by Guerard; "The New Historical Romance" by David Levin, in Virginia Quarterly Review (Charlottesville), Spring 1986.

My work has been notably affected by wartime experience (political intelligence work in France) and by the pressures and ambiguities of the subsequent cold war. I have tried without success to put the political subject aside; thousands of unpublished pages, many of them angry, testify to inescapable contemporary pressures.

Maquisard, written immediately after the 1944 events it describes, is an affectionate record of wartime comradeships among men who had been in the underground. Apologetically subtitled A Christmas Tale, it is the slightest of my novels and was the most warmly received. Night Journey, my most complex and most substantial novel, is more truthful in its picture of the political and moral devastation caused by American-Soviet rivalries in a world as deceptive, and as self-deceptive, as that of 1984. It was, on publication, repeatedly compared to Orwell's book. The confession of Paul Haldan (wandering and evasive, with his final crime left undescribed, and indeed undetected by most readers) is that of a liberal "innocent" who can accept neither his mother's sexual betrayals nor his country's systematic abuse of power and liberal ideology, nor its threatened use of germ warfare. Haldan's night journey into temporary regression takes him into the middle European city of his childhood, disrupted by the two great powers and betrayed by both. The ambiguities of an undeclared war are internalized by Paul Haldan, and his psycho-sexual anxieties projected onto the screen of public conflict. The Exiles (based on a journey to Cuba, Haiti, and Santo Domingo during the turmoil of 1959) explores deception and self-deception in the tragi-comic context of Caribbean propaganda and political intrigue. It dramatizes the conflict of a quixotic Trujillo assassin incorrigibly drawn to the exiled statesmen he is supposed to destroy. Manuel Andrada appears to be the most winning of my fictional creations.

In The Hunted, an earlier novel and conventionally realistic in technique, psycho-sexual anxieties and monumental vanities reflect public disorders in a small New England college just before World War II. Oedipal conflicts and fantasies, dramatized fairly unconsciously in The Past Must Alter, are central to Night Journey and to The Bystander, another story of romantic love vitiated by immaturity and regression. The technique of The Bystander is that of the French récit, with the motives either concealed or distorted by the narrator-protagonist. But the story is also of a collision between American "innocence" and European compromise. One of my central aims has been to avoid, while writing fairly complex psychological novels, the deadening burden of explicit and accurate analysis. The Bystander—very easy to read, perhaps too easy to read—requires, to be truly understood, the closest attention to hint, to image, to nuance of voice and style.

In Christine/Annette I wanted to bring a number of perspectives and narrative methods to bear on the ambiguous case of an actress who changes her name and even her personality several times. We see her through fragments of her own journal, her son's reconstructive memoir, a former lover's screen play, brief oral histories by old friends, a few letters. No two versions entirely agree. A good young writer urged me to simplify my novel in accord with contemporary taste by making it more "linear," with a clear story line and third-person narration. But I kept to my ambiguities and contradictory witnesses, knowing they were true to a past that was irrecoverable and had become mythical. I was much pleased by a reviewer who found in this novel a combination of Proust's impressionism and the post-modern qualities of Italo Calvino.

I was bemused by the turbulent self-destructive life of Louise Brooks, but even more by that of Lya de Putti, a Hungarian star of silent films whom I met when I was ten years old. She left husband and infant daughters to become an actress, and the children were led to believe she was dead. More than fifty years later I met the daughters, and was struck by their loyalty to the lost mother and to the father who had kept them in ignorance. I knew none of this family history when I brought a remembered "Lia" briefly into my first novel of 1937. But the loyalty of the daughters, as well as Lya de Putti's turbulent life, is reflected in Christine/Annette.

Gabrielle was subtitled "An Entertainment" after the model of Graham Greene, who thus labeled his less complex novels. The subtitle may have been a mistake. Although structured as a psychological thriller, Gabrielle is a serious political satire. More than ever before I was conscious, as I wrote, of an earlier work as an ideal model: Voltaire's Candide. The immediate provocation for the novel was the misguided and complacent attitude of the State Department toward Latin America.

The Hotel in the Jungle is laid in 1870, 1922, and 1982, with two characters appearing in both 1870 and 1922 and two appearing in both 1922 and 1982. The setting is a resort hotel located in Santa Rosalia, an isolated Indian village in southern Mexico. The novel is based on the premise that the filibuster William Walker might not have been executed after his loss of Nicaragua and on the hypothesis that the poet Mina Loy, looking for her disappeared husband the poet-boxer Arthur Cravan, might have come to Santa Rosalia at the same time as the former heavyweight champion Jack Johnson. Cravan had fought Johnson in Barcelona and hoped to enlist Johnson in a boxing academy in Mexico. In 1982 a woman scholar, bemused by the disappearance of one major character in 1922 and another in 1982, comes to Santa Rosalia to investigate the ambiguous past. The final owner of the hotel was Cyrus Cranfield, an entrepreneur who resembles in some ways Howard Hughes.

* * *

Albert Guerard's seven novels, published over a period of nearly fifty years, have shown a steady progression in technique and a constant reconsideration of theme. Nearly all his novels represent a controlled madness, a largely successful attempt to valorize political/psychological issues in a modern world where the center cannot hold. Guerard concentrates on intense moments of introspective terror and possibility for brooding protagonists trapped in futile or apocalyptic situations. The subjects of his major works of literary criticism—Hardy, Conrad, Gide, Dickens, Dostoevsky, Faulkner—and his admiration for the macabre humor and sexual fantasies of anti-realists liked Joyce, Kafka, Nabokov, Hawkes, Pynchon, Barthelme lead Guerard to a kind of fiction that refuses linear narration and embraces time distortion, untrustworthy observers, and ambiguous relationships. Dangerously close to the critical praise gained by the academic novelist, with its ensuing commercial failure, Guerard has never wavered from his commitment to the novel as complex experiment.As he states in The Triumph of the Novel, the effects he seeks are inventive fantasy, intuitive psychology, solitary obsessions, and political trauma.

Guerard's first novel, The Past Must Alter, deals with his major theme, a young man fascinated by his abortive desire for a beautiful older woman and bothered by an implausible relationship with a shadowy father. Drives to gamble and to test himself obsess and threaten the youth. The Hunted takes a more traditional fictional approach—the story of a waitress who marries an arrogant college instructor, of her increasing disillusion with his weakness and growing awareness of her own strength. The Hunted has a special quality that comes not from this anti-love story, nor from the New England rural college setting, but from a near-Faulknerian treatment of a violent flood and of a hunt for a doomed mythomaniac, the Bomber, who awakens the aggressions of the truly lost "normal" inhabitants and releases the female protagonist. Equally familiar in form is Maquisard. Subtitled, deliberately, "A Christmas Tale"—and Guerard's most commercial novel—the short book deals with a group of maquis and an American officer during the last months of World War II. Brilliantly compressed, coming close to but ultimately avoiding sentimentality, the novel is Guerard's most positive statement: the personal comradeship, solidarity, and dedication to a cause formed in combat allow the characters to act out their loyalties and sacrifices as well as to discover emotional and political possibilities that can sustain them in the postwar world. The book is warm, dramatic, lyrical.

In Night Journey Guerard creates this postwar world as a surreal one that joins varieties of betrayals. Paul Haldan (even the name echoes Conrad) betrays—deserts, literally—his superior officer in a move that re-enacts Haldan's guilt towards his father's death. Even darker themes of sexual betrayals by a form of projected rape and political betrayal by a military maneuver that alternately liberates and abandons a city qualify Night Journey as a work of inward and outer deception and destruction. Certainly Guerard's most imaginative and ambitious book, this novel is intelligent, probing, and yet, like many works of the psycho-political genre, ultimately lacking in human vitality. The madness is too controlled; the passion is too spent.

The Bystander concentrates on personal relations. Anthony, a young man in France, pursues the actress subject of his adolescent dreams. Poor and self-destructive, Anthony does attain his erotic desires, only to discover in Christiane a fundamental pragmatist who can reject passion for financial support from an older man. The book circles back on itself and is as much about loss as about gain. Tormented, sensual, self-lacerating, this anti-hero remains one of Guerard's most fascinating psychological portraits. The Exiles returns to the Conrad-Greene political arena that Guerard is drawn to as powerfully as to the psychological realm. (Indeed, sections of two unpublished political novels have appeared during the past decade in magazines; Suspended Sentence, which concerns an aging middle-European political exile, and Still Talking, a post-holocaust vision of wandering armies across a destroyed landscape.) Guerard's most comic effort, The Exiles satirizes Central American political refugees and their hangers-on and sympathetically presents a comic/tragic secret agent who combines absolute loyalty to a dictator and emotional commitment to a dissident, quasi-revolutionary poet. The comedy of Manuel Andrada's maneuverings in Boston is effective; the tragedy of his self-immolation in his beloved homeland is moving. Guerard's use of an objective, rather colorless narrator, however, mutes both the laughter and terror.

Constantly dedicated to the writing of fiction despite his careers as professor and critic. Guerard finally achieves his aim of definitively catching his fascination with his earliest subject—the love of an innocent young man for a more experienced lovely actress … only for Charles Strickland the actress is in reality his lost mother, and the novel Christine/Annette is at once a rewriting of the past and an acceptance of the present. The book is indeed a triumph, easily Guerard's finest. He is lyrical and humorous, wistful and historical, tough-minded and sensitive. Part detective story, part family romance, part bildungsroman, part American and European social history, Christine/Annette is largely about the mystery of identity. The search for the mother, in all its Freudian and Jungian potentials, takes place in the real, richly evoked worlds of Paris and Berlin, Houston and Los Angeles. The narration is equally sure and varied—autobiography, movie script, objective frame, letters—and the film trope superbly sustained. The novel displays a confidence that comes from years of successful writing, certainly, but the special quality of this 1985 work is its freshness, its variety, its flexibility, its combination of an open, experimental structure, an authentic voice, and a traditional theme of loss, search, and discovery. Like Shakespeare's The Tempest or Faulkner's The Reivers, Guerard's novel of his mature years recapitulates his earlier concepts and techniques. The book provides as well a sparkle and energy, an argument with himself rather than with others that in Yeats's formulation leads not to political rhetoric but to lyrical achievement.

—Eric Solomon

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