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The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore

The Werewolf of Paris (1933)

by Guy Endore

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Episodic novel frequently diverges unto tangential tales of poor souls who fall victim to the aftermath of the sad and sordid tale of Bertrand. Doomed from the start, having been fathered by a priest and born on Christmas Day with joined eyebrows, Betrand makes for quite a tragic character in Guy Endore often rambling narrative. Its a bit of a slow burn before some genuine werewolf action commences, but Endore throws in some creepy touches into Bertrand's early life; being thirsty for the taste of blood as a young child stands out in particular. The author teases the reader with Aymar's growing hysteria over his 'nephew''s night time antics, listening to the sound of claws at his door. Endore briefly entertains the idea that somehow Bertrand himself is perhaps responsible for all of the grim war fever that is upsetting Europe, which is interestingly a similar idea hinted in relation to Dracula in the novel Dracula: Asylum. The Parisian segment with the General and his daughter is one of the best of the side vignettes that showcase the side effects of Bertrand's rampages as a werewolf. The sidebar on public hysteria regarding the supposed immoral and cruel secret lives of priests, monks, and nuns in Paris is interesting in itself but offers nothing to advance the plot. The novel's flow was too overly complicated for me to say that I enjoyed it. I appreciated the basic elements of the story, the methods of survival employed by Bertand over the course of his life, and some of the author's stylistic form. I'm glad I read the book, simply to say that I have read it, but honestly I found this novel a chore to get through. ( )
  Humberto.Ferre | Sep 28, 2016 |
I feel like this had a lot of potential to be great but fell short. The most interesting parts of the story were left inconclusive. But it had some moments. ( )
  loewen | Aug 3, 2014 |
[b:The Werewolf of Paris|539519|The Werewolf of Paris|Guy Endore|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1175633863s/539519.jpg|526906] is an interesting book. Part horror story and part historical fiction, it follows the travails of the titular werewolf of Paris from his birth to his death, as well as his place in the blood-drenched moment of history known as the Franco-Prussian War that was followed by the ill-fated Paris Commune. Interestingly the werewolf in question, Bertrand Caillet, is actually something of a secondary character in his own tale, as it is told from the perspective of his adoptive father Aymar Galliez. We never see the wolf itself in action, and despite some tantalizing clues built upon separate pieces of evidence, the actual lycanthropy of Bertrand could as easily be interpreted as a purely psychological affliction as opposed to a supernatural one. Add to that the fact that we are being told this tale third-hand (Endore’s conceit being that his story is being constructed from the reports and reminiscences of Galliez who had to put the pieces together mostly second-hand, interspersed with Endore’s own researches into the documents of the period) and the truth or fiction of the lyncanthropy in question becomes even greater. Sometimes this conceit does not always benefit Endore’s story, for there are many scenes and events that occur within the text that would have been clearly outside of the knowledge of Galliez or any documentary sources of the day…still that is a quibble for something that really is a novel and quite an enjoyable one at that.

Endore starts his ‘documentary’ with a tale taken from the annals of history that purports to enlighten us as to the ultimate origins of our werewolf. It is a sordid tale of feuding nobility wherein the Pitamonts and Pitavals, after having waged generations of warfare against each other, finally end their feud in mutual impoverishment and one of the last of the Pitamonts is held captive for years by the last of the Pitavals. His imprisonment is an inhuman one, and he is left to suffer in a literal hole in the ground, fed nothing save raw meat. This apparently triggers his transformation into the wolf-man of legend. Our tale truly begins, however, when Josephine, a young peasant girl newly arrived in Paris, is raped by a priest, a descendant of the last of the Pitamonts, and bears Bertrand, a child destined to bring forth the family curse.

We follow Bertrand in his young life, at first so full of promise and then slowly brought to near ruin by his ever-increasing taste for blood. Strange things begin to happen in Bertrand’s village: animals go missing or turn up dead, recent corpses are found exhumed and partially eaten. What could be happening? Slowly Bertrand’s “uncle” Aymar (the nephew of the woman who had taken in Josephine and the man who ends up becoming responsible for both mother and child) begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together and see that everything leads back to his nephew. At first he tries to slake the thirst of the monster inside Bertrand by feeding the boy raw meat and keeping him confined to the house. This only has limited efficacy and soon more drastic measures need to be taken. Ultimately the boy is able to escape his well-meant prison and, starving to appease his lusts, goes on a spree of murder and terror that takes him to Paris. Here, amidst the confusion of the end of the Franco-Prussian war and the rise of the Commune Bertrand is able to satisfy most of his hungers free from persecution or discovery. But his Uncle Aymar is spurred on by regret and remorse. He feels responsible for the release of this beast upon the world, a beast he is convinced is a supernatural terror, and decides to hunt him down. The rest of the tale details his attempts to find Bertrand and his slowly dawning discovery amidst the chaos and death that seems to permanently reside in Paris that perhaps mankind itself is the true monster. Side by side with this runs the parallel story of Bertrand and his fortuitous discovery of a lover not only able, but willing to supply him with a conduit for the slaking of his varied lusts…it is an interesting picture of depravity, lust and mutual co-dependence. Of course things come to a head and the piper must be paid.

Endore’s overarching purpose is, I think, not really to tell a werewolf story, but a desire to expose the bloodthirsty nature of mankind, for which the werewolf of the title becomes little more than a symbol, or even a contrast to this thesis, since one lone werewolf, no matter how savage, can never hope to decimate the lives of which plain old human conflict is capable. For, as even Aymar the unstinting hunter of the wolf must admit, if the hands of “normal” men are able to commit and rationalize the cold-blooded killing of 20,000 commoners as part of the reaction against the Commune (not to mention those killed by the Commune itself in its heyday, or the casualties of the Franco-Prussian war before it) then “What was a werewolf who had killed a couple of prostitutes, who had dug up a few corpses…?” Endore, and by extension Aymar, even postulates that the very existence of the werewolf may have been nothing more than the sickness of the time manifesting itself physically…though it is left open-ended in a chicken-and-egg way whether it is the madness of the time that allowed the wolf to be born, or whether it was the existence of the wolf that could infect mankind with its madness and bloodlust.

Overall this was a good tale, though I would say it came across much more as historical fiction for me than as pure horror (which in my opinion is fine). It has also been claimed that this is the “Dracula for Werewolves” and I’m not sure if I agree. Certainly it shares similarities with Dracula in its documentary format and is a well-written, and even seminal, version of the werewolf myth, but I am not widely enough read in werewolf stories to say whether or not it is the best of them. Also, the ambiguity of the actual ‘reality’ of Bertrand’s lyncanthropy and his relatively secondary role as a character in the story makes me think that while this is a good tale well worth reading, it may not be the ultimate exemplar of werewolf fiction.
( )
  dulac3 | Apr 2, 2013 |
*note to self.copy from Al.
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
The novel features two of my favorite tropes - the found document and the person who knows the truth about a supernatural secret but is not believed.
It's 1871, during the the terrible events of the Paris Commune's downfall. Aymar Galliez tries to warn people about the bestial behavior of his ward by submitting to a court a written summary of his research and experience.

"There are elemental spirits all about us, the souls of beasts that have died, or of the more horrible beasts that have never lived. When the body of a man weakens, the soul of that man begins to detach itself from the tentacles of flesh and prepares itself to fly off the instant the body dies. And around a dying man a circle of beastly souls peer and wait. They would like to have that beautiful body for a house, that body of man which is the highest creation ever to have come from God's sculpturing hands. Man, the body with the erect spine, before which the horizontal spines of the animal world must grovel.
"It is to guard against the invasion of roaming souls that bodies stiffen in rigor mortis, at once after death. Then the souls that enter the man's husk find only a stiff shell left. Nevertheless it happens occasionally that the soul of a beast gains entrance into a man's body while he yet lives. Then the two souls war with each other. The soul of this man may depart completely and leave only that of the beast behind. And that explains how there are men in this world who are only monsters in disguise, playing for a moment at being men, the kings of creation. Just as a servant plays with his master's clothes.
"Of werewolves," Galliez continues, "there are two kinds. There are first those that have two bodies and only one soul. These two bodies exist independently, the one in the forest, the other in the home. And they share one soul. The man then only dreams of his wolf-life. Lying abed, he thinks himself abroad, roaming great pine-woods in a distant country, slinking by on soft padded paws, or yelling in a pack at the flying hoofs of three horses dragging a sleigh in a gallop across a snowy plain. -And in the same manner, the wolf, satiated with his kill and drowsing in his den, dreams a strange dream. He is a man, clad in garments and is walking about, busy in the affairs of the city.
"And there are, in the second place, werewolves that have but one body, in which the soul of man and of beast are at war. Then whatever weakens the human soul, either sin or darkness, solitude or cold, brings the wolf to the fore. And whatever weakens the beastly soul, either virtue or daylight, warmth of the companionship of man, raises up the human soul. For it is known that the wolf shrinks from that which invites the man.
"These great truth are now forgotten, because in former days these monsters were so ruthlessly hunted down and expunged that we now enjoy a comparative immunity and freedom from such dangers. But it behooves us to watch sharply lest the race of mankind go into eclipse before the rise of a race of beasts ...."
Kindle location 1314-1337
  Mary_Overton | Aug 13, 2012 |
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These creatures live onely without meats;
The Cameleon by the Air,
The Want or Mole by the Earth, The Sea-Herring by the Water,
The Salamander by the Fire, Unto which may be added the Dormouse, which lives partly by sleep,
And the Werewolf, whose food is night, winter and death. -- An old saying
to Henrietta Portugal
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Where shall I begin my tale?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Bertrand is born on a Christmas Eve to a woman who had been molested by a priest.
She shares the last name of a family previously known to have produced a werewolf.

Bertrand grows up with strange sadistic and sexual desires which are usually expressed
as dreams. Sometimes the dreams are memories of actual experiences in which he had
transformed into a wolf.

His step-uncle, Aymar Galliez, who raises the boy (along with his mother and a servant),
soon finds out about Bertrand's affliction. Bertrand flees to Paris after an assault on a
prostitute, an incestuous union with his mother and a murder in their home village.
Aymar tries to find Bertrand by studying the details of local crimes, such as mauling of
corpses and various murders.

Bertrand joins the National Guard during the Franco-Prussian War, doing little fighting
and finding love from a girl who works at a canteen. However Bertrand and his love,
Sophie, are forced to deal with his affliction. They try to avoid the violent effects of his
transformation by cutting into parts of her body and allowing him to suck her blood.

Aymar finds Bertrand in Paris during the Paris Commune, but does nothing. Bertrand
is caught attacking a man after transforming into a wolf. Aymar supports burning Bertrand
at the stake, but a court trial sentences him to an infirmary.

Aymar transfers Bertrand to an asylum after the Versaillists have taken back Paris.
Unbeknownst to Aymar, Bertrand suffers in a small cell, drugged when he is visited by
his uncle. Bertrand eventually commits suicide by jumping from the building with a girl
he mistakenly believes is Sophie. Their deaths are similar to a suicide fantasy that Bertrand
and Sophie enjoyed; the real Sophie had previously committed suicide on her own, unable to
deal with her separation from Bertrand.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0806512873, Paperback)

In a work that strives to do for werewolves what Stoker's Dracula did for vampires, Endore's werewolf, an outcast named Bertrand Caillet, travels round seeking to calm the beast within. An episodic tale, the story wanders through 19th Century France and into hotspots like the Franco-Prussian war. Stunning in its sexual frankness and eerie, fog-enshrouded visions, this novel was decidedly influential for the generations of horror and science fiction authors who came after.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:05 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Classics. Endore's classic novel has not only withstood the test of time since it was first published in 1933, but it boldly used and portrayed elements of sexual compulsion in ways that had never been seen before, at least not in horror literature.In this gripping work of historical fiction, Endore's werewolf, an outcast named Bertrand Caillet, travels across pre-Revolutionary France seeking to calm the beast within. Stunning in its sexual frankness and eerie, fog-enshrouded visions, this novel was decidedly influential for the generations of horror and science fiction authors who came afterward.… (more)

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