In the beginning of the 1900s one fictional character was the absolute sensation in Europe and elsewhere- the legendary “consulting detective” Sherlock Holmes- created by the inimitable Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.Within a few years, the idea was copied by many a hack writer and there were several cheap imitations doing the rounds- many coming up with implausible explanations to seemingly complex mysteries. Definitely a far cry from the unique blend of science and logic that made Sherlock Holmes so attractive.Meanwhile in France, a writer who had so far known very little success till then, a certain Maurice LeBlanc had a brain wave. Instead of treading the imitation path he decided to create something of an Anti-Sherlock Holmes.
Thus was born the legendary Arsène Lupin.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this character think of him as the prototype for later anti heroes like The Saint or The Lone Wolf.
Lupin is a gentleman-cambrioleur i.e. a gentleman thief, who loves to prey on the wicked and the wealthy, while coming up with mind boggling schemes to get his hands on the merchandise and then get away with it.Often inspired by several famous scandals and incidents of the era, the Lupin stories also borrowed freely from writers like Edgar Allan Poe or Doyle for their tricks and twists. Some of the Arsène Lupin stories could also be rip roaring adventures with secret quests or fantastic weapons- that would pit the superior wits of Lupin against far more villainous adversaries.
Soon enough LeBlanc decided to introduce Sherlock Holmes into the stories and many are the times when the master thief and the master criminal matched wits- with Lupin pretty much the winner, atleast in the LeBlanc books.To this day Arsène Lupin remains an absolute favorite amidst young and old readers in French speaking countries and his adventures have spawned over 20 films- some even from Japan and Mexico.
In fact, Lupin seems to be a favorite character for Japanese manga and anime creators. The character was also the hero of several Hollywood films of the 20s and 30s.
So if you are yet to fall for the charms of the gentleman-cambrioleur, do pick up any of the several stories available (Lupin stories are vastly translated) and just start discovering this amazing world for yourself.
The adventures of Lupin are available widely in translation. Needless to say they are best enjoyed in their original French. In case you would like to start reading French literature in French, you can always enroll yourself for an online French Course at Babel School of Languages 🙂 Just click on the contact us tab!