Tiger At The Gates

by Jean Giraudoux


London: Methuen & Company, 1955. First U.K. edition. 12mo (19x13cm), original black cloth with silver-lettered spine, in illustrated dust jacket. 84pp. Translated by Christopher Fry. Text in English. Unclipped dust jacket with minor foxing and edgewear. Occasional very minor foxing to pages, overall very good plus in very good dust jacket.
London: Apollo Theatre, 1955. 12mo (18,5×15,5cm), staple-bound. 8pp. Text in English. Folded once horizontally, with minor creases. Contents clean and remarkably untoned. Near fine.


Jean Giraudoux wrote the play La guerre de Troie n’aura pas lieu [The Trojan War Will Not Take Place, which was retitled to Tiger at the Gates by Christopher Fry] between autumn of 1934 and June 1935, at dawn of the Second World War. Giraudoux draws a parallel between the situation in Europe in the 1930s, where everyone saw a new war coming without really preventing it, with the Trojan War in Antiquity.

One war is over, another is imminent, in this dramatic situation places Giraudoux the action of his play. The play takes place in the days prior to the outbreak of the Trojan War and narrates the efforts of the military commander Hector, who tries to prevent the war from breaking out with the help of the Trojan women.

In 1952, eight years after Giraudoux’s death, Chris Marker wrote about Giraudoux’s work and life for Édition du Seuil’s series Ecrivains de toujours, entitled Giraudoux par lui-même. In the book, Chris Marker coined the term Generation Giraudoux, a pre-war generation born around 1920 to which he also felt attached to. Marker, who was highly influenced by Giraudoux, stated that for Giraudoux imagination was such an important part of reality, that to deprive oneself of its services seemed to him the worst alienation. Sartre, on the other hand, accused Giraudoux of being unrealistic, and of denying reality.

In occupied France, Giraudoux’s behavior was often contradictory and led to cracks in his public image, but the Generation Giraudoux didn’t let go of him, for the good reason that for this generation the Third World War became possible, which Marker processed in his legendary film La Jetée. Marker described Giraudoux, who got caught up eventually in the net of politics, as a “political idiot, a blind man who looked after everything on the undermined planet“, but also a “literary type who has set himself the goal of leading people to a human world“.

Tiger at the Gates is the first English edition, translated by the English poet and playwright Christopher Fry, with a stunning cover design by Loudon Sainthill, who also was the set and costume designer of the Play. The book also includes the original theater programme of the premiere in 1955 at the Apollo Theatre in London, directed by Harold Clurman.

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