JOSEPH KESSEL

Writer

Joseph Kessel (1898 - 1979), writer and journalist was a man of passions. At the age of 29, he experienced the dizziness and vertigo of casino players. A devouring dive, with no other limits than the irrational expectation of winnings, which never come... the adventure will end with a happy ending... with Deauville as a backdrop.

In 1927 Joseph Kessel was awarded the Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française, won the previous year with his novel The Captiveswas invited to give a conference at the prestigious Société des Bains de Mer de Monaco. Once the conference is over, he heads for Cannes, with the intention of spending the evening and the night there.

In Cannes, he goes to the Casino to play with the amount of his fee. As the evening goes on, he plays, plays again and again and regularly loses the little he wins... He is obsessed with one thought: to win again. He plays, bets on a number, a color, goes from table to table, from roulette to baccarat and plays again and again, hoping to win. No matter, Joseph Kessel goes back to his hotel and returns the next day with the same obstinacy, the same blindness. The adventure will last ten days. Ten days of an intoxicating dive and a headlong rush, during which Joseph Kessel loses all notion and sets no safeguards. The bill grows during the stay. It ends up reaching 300,000 francs. A gambling debt, abysmal to which, are added the 14 000 F claimed by the reception of the Hotel.

On the evening of the tenth day, the casino's chief cashier refused him a new check, " The order came from Mr. André," he said. François André (1885-1962), is the owner of the hotels and casinos of Cannes, Deauville and La Baule. Joseph Kessel, invited to join him in his office, tried to negotiate a new advance. François André remains inflexible. " ...I have observed you and I have made inquiries. You know, I don't lend 300,000 francs to just anyone. Because you owe me 300,000 francs, Mr. Kessel! Now listen to me. I like you. I haven't read your books...but I know men. You are a terrible player. It was good that you had an experience that led you to the edge of the abyss. You are there. All I have to do is cash your check tomorrow and... But don't worry, I won't ask you for anything. At least, not right away. I have a feeling that you'll be able to pay me back with what you earn from your books. I prefer that you don't go to the point of no return and I have prepared a schedule for you. " Joseph Kessel leaves the office, humiliated, but preserved and indebted of a schedule of 120 monthly payments. Ten years of repayment, to settle a debt contracted in ten days! 

The next day, back in Paris, Kessel went to the Prefecture of Police and asked to be banned from gambling for twenty years. In 1937, the debt was paid and Joseph Kessel won the friendship of François André. The Emperor of the games is a prince, he opens his hotels and restaurants to him. Becoming a "permanent guest of Monsieur André", Joseph Kessel will frequent each year, the three palaces of Deauville; The Hotel du Golf, The Royal and especially the Normandy. Until the middle of the 70's, Kessel, in his fifties, no longer flames around the green carpets. He abstains from gambling, swims in all weathers and savors his stays with passion, while he becomes one of the figures of Deauville... and today he is one of its most endearing ghosts.

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