Jacques Chessex - The Vampire of Ropraz (3 stars)

Jacques Chessex - The Vampire of Ropraz

(Bitter Lemon Press)

CRIME NOVELLA

Taking a true story, apparently, Swiss author Jacques Chessex has crafted a disconcerting novella of horrific sexual crime that alternately seduces and appals. Set against a bleak 1903 backdrop of rural belief in black magic, the Jura Mountains village of Ropraz is the scene of a grisly outrage, the grave of a young girl unearthed and the corpse sadistically mutilated and violated. Terror grips the area as two more bodies are found in similar circumstances and a suspect, Favez, is arrested, a disturbed stable boy with bloodshot eyes.

Translated into English by W Donald Wilson, Chessex’ stark, wintry prose retains a grim, poetic draw and it’s likely most readers will devour this in under 90 minutes. Contrasting society’s willingness to cloak the basest human desires and abuses in superstition, yet condone the most monstrous acts in wartime, the narrative ends abruptly and conceitedly in 1915. But the chill lingers.

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