chapter  9
Diet and Ideology in Corps et âmes
Pages 7

Maxenee Van der Meerseh (1907-51) is not especially well known today, even if both the Robert des noms propres and the Petit Larousse still devote a few lines to him. Yet this sometime lawyer and former winner of the Concours general (with a paper about Moliere on the eve of the first performance of Le Malade imaginaire) was once a much admired and very popular writer. 1 His first novel, La Maison dans la dune (1932), proved remarkably successful with the reading public. In 1933, Quand les sirenes se taisent almost got the Prix Theophraste-Renaudot. In 1936, L'Empreinte du dieu won the Prix Goncourt. Maria, fille de Flandre (1937), Ncheurs d'hommes (1940), Femmes a l'encan (1945), and La Fille pauvre (1948) were also widely liked. Above all, Maxence Van der Meersch is the author of Corps et ames, that is, of the biggest fiction seller in France under the Occupation (Lucien Rebatet's Les Decombres took the overall title). Awarded a prize by the Academie Fran<;aise, translated in several languages (including Spanish, German, and English), adapted for the stage by the novelist (1951), and brought to the screen by Curtis Bernhardt as a pure Hollywood soap opera (The Doctor and the Girl, 1949, with Glenn Ford and Janet Leigh), this 1943 work in two substantial volumes (I. Enchatne a toi-meme; II. Qu'un amour t'emporte), whose title and subtitles are suggestively programmatic, sold tens of thousands of copies in a few months and quickly became a precious commodity on the black market. At one point, it could be found only under the counter in most bookstores and purchased only for the most outrageous price (Todd 78). It was also a novel that provoked virulent attacks from the medical establishment. On November 8, 1943, in Paris, over four hundred physicians and students attended the "trial" of Corps et ames, which was chaired by the president of

the French bar; and the formal debates and denunciations resumed on December 13.