Jules Renard was a French author and playwright born in 1864 who is probably best-known for Poil de carotte (‘Carrot Top’), a darkly comical autobiographical novel in which he recalls his terrible upbringing as a red-headed child in a detached bourgeois family. Aside from his literary successes, Renard was also a devoted diarist, and his posthumously published journal, spanning from 1887 to 1910, weeks before his death, contains some of his most amusing writing: a treasure trove of entries, many no longer than a couple of sentences, containing witty observations, reflections, and confessions. This is just a tiny slice.
The Diary Entry
To get rid of flies, take off all your clothes and coat yourself head to toe with a glutinous liquid, mixed with a little honey or sprinkled with sugar, then take a slow walk around your bedroom. The flies flock to you, they stick to your skin, you can pick them off at your leisure. As a procedure it may lack elegance, but is infallible.
There have been a couple of English translations of Renard’s journal, the best of which—by some margin in my humble opinion—was published in 2020 with entries selected by Julian Barnes and translated by Theo Cuffe. It is from that book, Journal 1887-1910, that this entry comes, and I recommend it with all my might.
Diary entry excerpted from Journal 1887-1910 by Jules Renard. Selected and with an introduction by Julian Barnes. Translated by Theo Cuffe. Published by Quercus Books in 2020.
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