Ernest Pérochon

ernest_perochonErnest Pérochon (1885-1942) was a French author, known to the science fiction world for just one novel: Les hommes frénétiques (1925) (translated by Brian Stableford as The Frenetic People, 2012). This novel is set in the thirtieth century, and describes a utopian western world which is nevertheless in crisis. Its safety has been won by fighting a bacteriological war against Asia, and the new weapons have created mutants, which bring the world into crisis once again. See the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

Pérochon was born at Courlay (Deux-Sèvres) on a farm, and to a Protestant family; he remained proud of his region, and of his humble origins. En 1900, he became a pupil at the École Normale de Parthenay, and then an adjunct teacher at Courlay, and finally a teacher at the primary school in Parthenay. He did his military service in 1905, and married a fellow schoolteacher in 1907. He then moved to Saint-Paul-en-Gâtine, where his sole child, Simone, as born; it was the same year in which his first novel was published, locally, in Niort. In 1914 he changed job again, and became a teacher in Vouillé (the site of the victory of the first French king Clovis against the Goths in 507). In that year, he was mobilised.

After the war, in 1920, his novel Nêne won him a Prix Goncourt, France’s premier literary award, and in 1921 he decided to leave teaching and to settle in Niort, where he went on writing. His output included books for children, such as Nicolas et Nicolette au Bois charmant (1938) and Tap-Tap et Bilili (1937).

In 1940, he refused to collaborate with the Vichy press. Two of his novels were banned. He was threatened by the Vichyist Prefect, and watched by the Gestapo. He hid his distress from his family; and on 10 February 1942 had a fatal heart attack.

His son-in-law Delphin Debenest was a soldier in 1940, and joined the resistance. He was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Buchenwald, from which he escaped; he ended up as one of the prosecutors at the Nuremberg trials, and became a magistrate in Niort and Poitiers.

This information is mostly derived from Wikipédia. There is extensive quotation from Les hommes frénétiques in Versins, L’Encyclopédie de l’utopie…, 669-670.

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