East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Two types of adventurers

Pierre Mac Orlan was a Frenchman, his real name Pierre Dumarchey. He wrote novels of adventure and crime and, under a variety of aliases, pornography. Visitors of Karavansara might know him at least for one book, La Bandera, one of the early epics of the Foreign Legion, which was filmed in the ’30s starring Jean Gabin – and that tangentially influenced a a later movie called March or Die.

A surrealist and a satirist and not just a pornographer, Mac Orlan also wrote a tiny little book called Le petit manuel du parfait aventurier, or The Little Handbook of the Perfect Adventurer. It was published in 1920, and it’s a nasty little piece of work – as one might expect given the subject matter and the author. If you want, there is a copy of the French original in the Internet archive – me, I got me the Italian version, because it’s got a ribald photo of Gary Cooper on the cover, and because Amazon was having a sale with a 25% discount on the publisher’s catalog.

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