Wednesday 4 January 2012

12 for 2012: No.11: Maurice Leblanc (1864-1941)

During each of the twelve days of Christmas, the 1709 Blog is bringing readers some information concerning an author, composer, artist or creator who died in 1941 and whose works fall into the public domain in 2012 in countries which operate a "life plus seventy years" term for copyright in authors' works. Today we feature a French author whose creation was a Gallic rival to Sherlock Holmes.

French writer Maurice Leblanc had his literary breakthrough in 1905, when his creation ‘Arsène Lupin’ first made a published appearance. In previous years, Leblanc’s short stories and novels had been admired by critics but had failed to win the hearts of the public. Lupin, the gentleman-thief turned detective, brought Leblanc surprise fame and success. Reviews and sales of the Lupin books were so good that from 1905 onwards Leblanc dedicated almost the entirety of his career to producing more Lupin creations. By the end of his life, Leblanc had produced no fewer than twenty-one novels or short-story collections about Lupin. From 1908 Lupin became a popular stage personality when Leblanc’s stories were dramatized, and in 1912 Leblanc became part of the Légion d’Honneur in recognition of his services to literature.

Despite the success he met in the genre of crime fiction, Leblanc at times resented Lupin’s success. The writer made repeated efforts to create other characters, but inevitably ended up merging them with Lupin. For this reason, parallels have been drawn between Leblanc and his English counterpart Conan Doyle, who met with similar experiences when he created Sherlock Holmes some years earlier. Other works produced by Leblanc in the ‘Lupin years’ were the science fiction novels Les Trois Yeux (1919) and Le formidable evènement (1920).

This series has been authored by Miriam Levenson, whom the 1709 Blog gives its grateful thanks.

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