"Dear me, how far from infinite the world is! Talking to my cousin today, I mentioned Octave Mirbeau's name. 'Why, Mirbeau,' she said, 'let me see--that's the son of the doctor at Remalard, the place where we have our estate. I remember that two or three times I lashed him over the head with my whip. He was an impudent little thing as a child--his great idea was to show his bravado by throwing himself under the feet of our horses when we or the Andlaus were out driving.'"
Edmond de Goncourt: Diary,
August 26, 1889
I SHOULD LIKE to take the occasion of the reprint of a very respectable translation by Alvah C. Bessie of Octave Mirbeau's novel, Le Jardin des Supplices to look back at a remarkable French writer whose reputation, after his death in 1917, almost immediately evaporated both abroad and in his own country. Mirbeau belonged so much to his period that I may perhaps be pardoned for explaining that I first read him, and almost completely through, at the time of the first World War, and that he will always remain for me an old companion of my experiences of those years. As such a companion, he had perhaps more value than he might have had in other conditions. In the first place, he is at his best when he is describing those wretched French villages, with