Jean Ferry

Jean Ferry




Available as of November 2013 from Wakefield Press, The Conductor and Other Tales, Jean Ferry’s only book of stories, in English for the first time. Originally published by Gallimard in 1953, under the editorship of Jean Paulhan, it was brought back into print in 2011 by Éditions Finitude with recently unearthed material.


Though Jean Ferry (1906-1974) made his living primarily as a screenwriter (for such a diverse set of directors as Clouzot, Buñuel, Louis Malle, Georges Franju, and Christian-Jaque), he was associated with both the Surrealists and the College of Pataphysics (of which he was a satrap), and was known in his day as the greatest specialist in the works of Proust’s neighbor, Raymond Roussel. He was a nephew to the great avant-garde literary publisher José Corti. He translated a book of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories. In 1972, he was an Oulipo “guest of honor.”

His most famous story, “The Society Tiger,” has been multiply anthologized in French and English, and translated into the latter three times (notably by Mark Polizzotti and J.H. Andrews). André Breton, who provided an introduction to The Conductor, called Ferry’s story “The Society Tiger” “the most sensationally new poetical text I have read in a long time.”

This book was the recipient of a generous 2013 PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant. I have written on Ferry at Weird Fiction Review and the PEN America site, and the Wakefield edition of The Conductor will feature an introduction I wrote, providing biographical and cultural context for the author.

Some stories from the book may be previewed in these fine publications:

Reviews of the book have also begun trickling in:

“20th Century French literature is a large spider with its webs going towards different directions and areas.  Here is one map one should own and read.”—Tosh Berman, Tam Tam Books

“[A] wonderful coffee-table book for Modern Strangers. This is a perfect one-a-day antidote for reality in all its clunky, gory glory.”
—Rick Kleffel, The Agony Column

“In a lovely pocket-sized (hurrah!) edition from Wakefield Press, this is a wonderful volume to dip back into even if one first reads it through in one go; the pieces are well worth revisiting. The collages by Claude Ballaré also strike the proper note.”
—M. A. Orthofer, The Complete Review

“A book of crazily inventive short-prose narratives with the imaginative zeal of Borges or Breton – first published in France in 1950.”
—Green Apple Book Recommendations, SFGate

“Big, ambitious works tend to get all the ink and attention, but smaller books, sometimes consisting of little more than charm and idiosyncrasy, are often the ones we come to love. I opened “The Conductor and Other Tales,” by Jean Ferry, and found myself, to use one of those no-no words among serious reviewers, enchanted. In tone and subject matter, these two dozen very short stories may remind you of Italo Calvino or Steven Millhauser at their most beguiling.”—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

“This small yet potent collection has too much to discuss in one brief review… For fans of quirky, bleak, and short French fiction from the post-surrealist era, this book is a new must have.”Josh Coblentz, HTML Giant

“[T]he stories, themselves, resemble dreams  – or rather, the kinds of puzzles and wordplay which surrealists love and have long represented as dreams. Think of Magritte’s The Treachery of Images (aka -”This is not a pipe”) […] I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the physical book, itself, is charming.” ~ Tara Cheesman, booksexyreview

“[these tales]…. linger somewhere between Kafka’s The Castle and Bataille’s Story of the Eye. At times transgressive, and at others with a Poe-like Gothic, the stories are also ironically mythical, creating a juxtaposition of nuance and beauty. [...] There is a ghostly, ethereal quality to each tale, which, as the collection progresses, become darker and phlegm-like…. Each story shifts between admiration for spectacle, and violence or mortal danger within that spectacle. As any excellent story collection, the tension vibrates at unexpected moments, and the language expands, or crests at moments of insight to allow the reader’s creativity to see a new perception of their own imagination.” ~ Matt Pincus, Necessary Fiction

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