To Hell with the Ugly
Et on Tuera Tous Les Affreux
By Boris Vian. Translated and Introduction by Paul Knobloch. Drawings by Jessica Minckley.
First published in French in 1948, To Hell with the Ugly saw Boris Vian's noir-novelist pseudonym Vernon Sullivan take on Vian's own burlesque pop sensibilities. An erotic crime novel with science fiction tendencies, Sullivan's third outing is described by its translator as "a pornographic Hardy Boys novel set on the Island of Dr. Moreau to a be-bop soundtrack." To Hell with the Ugly recounts the tale of Rock Bailey, a dashing 19-year-old lad determined to hold onto his virginity amidst the postwar jazz-club nightlife of Los Angeles-a resolution challenged by the machinations of the demented Doctor Markus Schutz, who has decided to breed beautiful human beings and found a colony in which ugliness is a genetic crime. Vian's brutal depictions of American race relations in his previous Sullivan novels here give way to a frenetic fantasy of eugenics and uniformity-a parodic anticipation of the cosmetic surgery that was to rule Hollywood over the coming decades, as well as a comic-book reflection on Nazi Germany's visions of a master race. With the novel's breathless domino tumble of fist fights, car chases, kidnappings, and murders, Vian here set out to out-Hollywood Hollywood, serving up a narrative cocktail of Raymond Chandler, H.G.Wells, Brave New World and Barbarella.