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Milton Glaser’s Boris Vian
May 21, 2015

Milton Glaser’s Boris Vian

By: zacharysachs

In addition to two deluxe volumes of Apollinaire that Milton Glaser designed and illustrated for publisher André Sauret in the early 80s, he also did a volume of French polymath Boris Vian. Vian, having written four literary novels that were not commercially successful, is said to have dashed off J’irai cracher sur vos tombes (I Spit on Your Graves), in 15 days as a deliberate bid for commercial success. It was originally published under the name Vernon Sullivan in 1946. (In an introduction, Vian claimed to be the translator of this fictitious American.) The hoax was eventually exposed but the book was already a best seller. Vian would write three more novels under the pseudonym.

Title page of "J'irari Cracher Sur Vos Tombes".

 
Editions André Sauret, Boris Vian J’irai cracher sur vos tombes. 1981. Title page.

Black book spine of "J'irai cracher sur vos tombes".

 
Editions André Sauret, Boris Vian J’irai cracher sur vos tombes. 1981. Spine.

Book slipcover, red with a black spine. The book on the right is black with a small red square within red rectangle design.

 
Editions André Sauret, Boris Vian J’irai cracher sur vos tombes. 1981. Slipcover.

André Sauret’s special edition appeared in 1981 (the fourth in a set of Sauret’s Vian novels), with watercolors by Glaser. Along with the volume itself, the archive also has some sketches for its illustrations. In many cases the progress is very clear:

Pencil thumbnail sketches for illustrations.

 
Milton Glaser Collection. Box 17, Folder 19. Sketch for Editions André Sauret.

Loose line drawing of a sitting woman leaning against a tree.

 

Finished illustration of sitting woman leaning against a tree. She is injured and blood is visible on her clothing.

 

Loose pencil drawing of a man and woman embraced under a door frame.

 

Fully colored illustration of man and woman embraced under a door frame.

 

Sketch of an off-frame woman holding cloth and another woman laying beside her on the left.

 

Finished illustration of a woman laying in bed, and a silhouetted woman holding a blue cloth.

 

Illustration of a young woman in green interior space, opening a door to a visiting lady.

 

Book end.

 

Boris Vian would become legendary in France, as a literary personality known partly through the success of his genre fiction, but also for the colorful stories from his life. In 1959, Vian was at the screening of the film version of this book, about which he had fought repeatedly with the producers and even gone so far as to denounce it publicly in advance. Only a few minutes in, he was so disgusted he died of a heart attack.