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A haunting work, reminiscent of Albert Camus, which portrays with exquisite psychological detail the emotional crisis in the life of a young Swiss schoolteacher. His father's prodigious vitality and virility had crushed his family and ruined his son's childhood. Even after his death the parental ogre haunts his son, sucking him into a vortex of despair. Fits with the contemporary success of autobiographical novels, focused on a tormented childhood, parental persecution and the loneliness of the outlier. Chessex's book is based on the character of his own father, his totalitarian and austere Calvinist upbringing and his escape to the sensual world of serial seduction. These motifs and the meditation on death have informed most of his fiction, especially "The Tyrant", his most successful book by far with 450,000 copies sold.
"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.
Praise for "A Jew Must Die":
"Chessex, our new Flaubert, has no equal when describing horror without flinching, screaming "sotto voce" and exploring guilt in taut prose.""--Le Nouvel Observateur"
"A masterpiece. Beauty of the world, ubiquity of evil, God's silence, it's all there, delivered like a slap to the face.""--""Le Point"
"A great author explores a nightmare not as anachronistic as it might appear.""--""L'Hebdo"
A novel based on a true story.
On April 16, 1942, a handful of Swiss Nazis in Payerne lure Arthur Bloch, a Jewish cattle merchant, into an empty stable and kill him with a crowbar. Europe is in flames, but this is Switzerland, and Payerne, a rural market town of butchers and bankers, is more worried about unemployment and local bankruptcies than the fate of nations across the border. Fernand Ischi, leader of the local Nazi cell, blames it all on the town's Jewish population and wants to set an example, thinking the German embassy would be grateful. Ischi's dream of becoming the local "gauleiter" is shattered, however, when the milk containers used to dissimulate Bloch's body parts is discovered floating in a lake nearby, leading to his arrest.
Jacques Chessex, winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt, is one of Switzerland's greatest authors. He knew the murderers, went to school with their children, and has written a terse, implacable story that has awakened memories in a country that seems to endlessly rediscover dark areas of its past.
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