The year 1923 was a momentous year for a young French writer named Raymond Radiguet. Radiguet began the year by publishing his first novel. He was also involved with a publicity campaign that focused on the author’s age and changed the way books were marketed. In the spring of 1923, Radiguet had been catapulted into the rarified artistic circle that included Coco Chanel and Picasso. He and Jean Cocteau were invited to a series of seances hosted by married artists Jean and Valentine Hugo.
In a pink velvet-lined anteroom, the Hugos and their friends, including the artistic polymath Jean Cocteau and the avant-garde composer Georges Auric, encircled a wooden pedestal with a tripod base and tilting round top, a type of table reputed to encourage spiritual communion. Placing their hands on its surface, which was lacquered black and painted with flowers, they asked questions. The table tapped out answers on the floor (one tap meaning the letter a, and so on), which Jean Hugo wrote down. Over the course of these sittings, the clearest messages were intended for the youngest guest: the nineteen-year-old Raymond Radiguet, Cocteau’s protégé and lover, who had just published his scandalous debut novel, Le Diable au corps (The Devil in the Flesh). “Uneasiness will grow with genius,” claimed the “spirit.” Radiguet, the spirit said, “should love me for he loves nothing.” It warned: “Fame does not replace love even in death and I am death.” The following week came death’s final declaration: “I want his youth.”
While we aren’t told who produced the messages of warning, it turned out to be an omen. Before the year was out, Radiguet was dead at the age of twenty. The things he said and did in the days leading up to his demise clearly indicated he knew death was imminent, even as those around him expected him to recover from illness. Read about the short but intense life of Raymond Radiguet at The Paris Review. -via Strange Company
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