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The Vampire of Ropraz [Paperback]

Jacques Chessex , Donald Wilson

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Book Description

April 1 2009

“Silky prose in this harrowing account of crime and punishment.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Using spare, effective prose, Chessex brilliantly renders both the inhospitable winter landscape of the mountains and the harshness of a society that makes monsters of its victims.’—London Review of Books

“A superb novel, hard as a winter in these landscapes of dark forests, where an atmosphere of prejudice and violence envelops the reader.”—L’Express

“It’s beautiful; it’s pure, like a blue sky over a black forest. Giono without garlic and olives.”—Le Point

“Far from just telling us a simple story Chessex has had the intelligence to integrate a dose of poetry, of the aesthetics of sin, and of the metaphysics of the monster.”—Lire

Jacques Chessex, winner of the prestigious Goncourt prize, takes a true story and weaves it into a lyrical tale of fear and cruelty.

1903, Ropraz, a small village near the Jura Mountains of Switzerland. On a howling December day, a lone walker discovers a recently opened tomb, the body of a young woman violated, her left hand cut off, genitals mutilated, and heart carved out. There is horror in the nearby villages: the return of atavistic superstitions and mutual suspicions. Then two more bodies are violated. A suspect must be found. Favez, a stableboy with bloodshot eyes, is arrested and placed in psychiatric care. He escapes, enlists in the Foreign Legion as the First World War begins, and is sent into battle in the trenches of the Somme.

Jacques Chessex, born in 1934, won the Prix Goncourt, France’s most prestigious literary prize for his novel A Father’s Love. He is considered one of Switzerland’s greatest living authors. He lives in Ropraz.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 106 pages
  • Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press (April 1 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1904738338
  • ISBN-13: 978-1904738336
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 12.2 x 19.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 118 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #875,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A superb novel, hard as a winter in these landscapes of dark forests, where an atmosphere of prejudice and violence envelops the reader" L'Express"An admirable story teller, Chessex surprises again with this terrifying portrait of a region, of an era and of a man with a strange destiny." Livres Hebdo"It's beautiful; it's pure, like a blue sky over a black forest. Giono without garlic and olives." Le Point"Far from just telling us a simple story Chessex has had the intelligence to integrate a dose of poetry, of the aesthetics of sin, and of the metaphysics of the monster." Lire

About the Author

Jacques Chessex, born in 1934, won the Prix Goncourt, France's most prestigious literary prize for his novel L'Ogre. He is considered one of Switzerland's greatest authors, a novelist, poet, essayist and winner of the French Literature Grand Prix of the Académie Française. W.Donald Wilson is a professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada. He is a translator of fiction and non-fiction from the French and his work includes titles by Yves Thériault and Jean Heffer.

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fine historical tale April 11 2009
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In 1903 in Ropraz, Switzerland, a young woman dies from meningitis. Soon after she is buried, her tomb is opened and she has been defiled by someone who sliced off a hand, mutilated her virginal genitals, and ripped out her heart. The residents of the Jura Mountain village are horrified by the depraved defilation and many believe no Godly person could have done the deed. The villagers believe something paranormally evil did the deed.. Garlic is hung everywhere and no one goes anywhere without wearing a cross; nocturnal activity is almost nonexistent.

Two more corpses are found as mutilated as that of the young girl. Suspicion falls on stable boy Favez due to his being a loner and more so because of his eyes, which are a bit more reddish than normal. He is arrested and sent to an asylum to receive psychiatric help.

This is an interesting fictionalization of a true crime incident in which the reactions to the depravity is the prime emphasis instead of the horror or the inquiry. In 106 pages, Jacques Chessex contrasts the pristine cold beauty of the region to the cold-blooded horrific defiling acts and the reactions of the locals who turn to superstition to ward off evil. Although not a supernatural thriller as the title is a metaphor and neither a police procedural investigative tale, THE VAMPIRE OF ROPRAZ is a fine historical tale that looks deep at Swiss villagers' reactions to gruesome deeds at the turn of the previous century with a fitting final spin.

Harriet Klausner
4.0 out of 5 stars Good except for the ending Nov. 7 2009
By G. Dawson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
3.5 out of 5: It's 1903, and a suspected vampire is on the loose in Ropraz, a small, forested town in Switzerland, described as a "land of wolves and neglect," oppressed by "four centuries of imposed `Calvinism.'" Even without vampires, Ropraz is a town steeped in suspicion and superstition:

"Endlessly construing the threat from deep within and from without, from the forest, from the cracking of the roof, from the wailing of the wind, from the beyond, from above, from beneath, from below: the threat from elsewhere. You bar yourself inside you skull, your sleep, your heart, your senses; you bolt yourself inside your farmhouse, gun at the ready, with a haunted, hungry soul."

The terror begins in Jacques Chessex's atmospheric novella when the recently buried corpse of 20-year-old Rosa Gilliéron, daughter of the town's Justice of the Peace, is found unearthed and violently desecrated. The local paper quickly labels the perpetrator the "Vampire of Ropraz," and the finger-pointing starts. Loaded with sexual tension and provincial overreaction, The Vampire of Ropraz is a dark portrait of a remote place trapped in its own suspicions and tortured by its oppressive religious beliefs: "There is, above all, welling up from generations of tortured brooding, the assurance of punishment from on high suspended over our lives."

Nine-tenths of The Vampire of Ropraz is a concise and masterful rendering of a dark place victimized by an even darker act. A bizarre, ironic twist at the very end of the story, however, throws a farcical light over the book, serving to undo much of the powerful effect achieved earlier. It's an unfortunate ending to a grimly entertaining tale.

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