The Writers’ Police
The Writers’ Police, a collection of extracts from Parisian police files from 1879 through 1891, have been published by Bruno Fuligni. Fuligni, an employee at the French parliament who discovered and compiled the files, remarks on the vigour and thoroughness with which the writers of that era were spied upon by snitches and secret police.
“Beyond criminals and political figures, there are files on writers and artists. In some cases, they go quite far in their indiscretions,” Fuligni said.
According to the files, Victor Hugo was a miserly money-grubber, poet Arthur Rimbaud was “a monstrosity” and Paul Verlaine was “a worthless human being”.
Police found Rimbaud’s behavior repugnant and his work obscure, but began watching him when he was 15 years old.
“They immediately saw that this young man was enormously talented. The police spotted him before the literary inner circle did.”
They targeted the poet, Verlaine, after both men manned the barricades of the Paris Commune in 1871. Verlaine “is someone not worth bothering about, but holds dangerous personal views.”
A 1937 report on Andre Breton, a founder of the surrealist movement, describes him as “conducting anti-national activities.”
Bruno Fuligni wonders whether these kinds of activities by National police authorities have now ceased. So do we all.