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El vampiro de Ropraz by JACQUES CHESSEX
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El vampiro de Ropraz (edition 2008)

by JACQUES CHESSEX

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946128,437 (3.4)5
Member:imation8
Title:El vampiro de Ropraz
Authors:JACQUES CHESSEX
Info:ANAGRAMA (2008), Perfect Paperback, 91 pages
Collections:Your library, Leído
Rating:***1/2
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The Vampire of Ropraz by Jacques Chessex

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English (5)  French (1)  All languages (6)
Showing 5 of 5
A novella more than a novel, this gritty story of a body snatcher of ravishes corpses of young women in 1900s Switzerland is a bracing dip into paranoia, fear, despicable lust and degradation humans can get up to, especially of they live in a benighted fundamentalist land. Jacques Chessex was a Swiss writer, so this is well worth checking out if you're in the mood for a darker vision tinged with the otherness that a writer from another culture can bring. ( )
  Bill_Peschel | Oct 16, 2010 |
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.

This review also appears on my blog Literary License. ( )
  gwendolyndawson | Nov 7, 2009 |
This is a bizarre, disturbing little book. At just over a hundred pages, it manages to be full of intense, graphic images. The author takes the true story of a crime committed in rural Switzerland in 1903. The corpse of a young woman is found violated, then those of two more women, before a mentally ill, disfigured farm boy is found in an act of bestiality and accused of the crimes. This book... ugh. I really did not like it. The prose is spare and cold, except for the descriptions of the various crimes, which are grisly and overly detailed. This book also contains one of the most stomach turning scenes of child abuse that I have ever read. The very last page or so was intriguing, and there were moments when I felt that the author was really going to make a point about the nature of poverty, abuse, and violence, but he never really got there. This is a gruesome book with no deeper meaning. What's more, there are no real characters; even the perpetrator of the crimes is barely developed as an individual. If you are interested in terrifying scenes of necrophilia, mutilation, rape, bestiality, and child abuse with no further story, then you might enjoy this book. Otherwise, steer clear from it. I wish I had. ( )
2 vote allthesedarnbooks | Aug 29, 2009 |
In a small town in eastern Europe called Ropraz, a beautiful, virginal young woman dies of a horrible illness. With great ceremony and reverence, she is laid to rest in their churchyard. The next morning, her remains are found spread across the graveyard, horribly mutilated and defiled. Resorting to superstition in their fear, the villagers assume a vampire is on the loose. When two more recently deceased girls are violated in the same way, panic spreads and blame, naturally, settles on a peasant male who is found violating farm animals and has been noted for staring at girls. This little novel explores the psychological and superstitious reaction a small town on the edge of the 20th century has when faced with horrible brutality.

First of all, there are no actual vampires in this book. That was a disappointment to me, who received this as a review copy knowing absolutely nothing about it, so don’t let it disappoint you!

If you like creepy, you might like this book. The descriptions of the mutilated girls had me feeling ill and uncomfortable in my skin. I’m jumping at shadows. I don’t always like to be scared and I can’t say I’m liking it right now - I’m writing this review after midnight just to get this book out of my head. Also, the concepts of bestiality and necrophilia are innately disgusting to me, and those parts really bothered me. Honestly, I did not need to know the condition of the accused’s private organs. Worse, it’s written in such a matter-of-fact way that it’s almost as though this shouldn’t bother me, since it’s just genetics. It did. I’m squicked out.

The psychological effect was interesting, though. It almost reminded me of The Witch’s Trinity by Erika Mailman in the way that blame centers on one person and then it just grows and grows, people desperate to blame someone. Mailman does it better, though. This one captures a certain mass hysteria but doesn’t focus on anyone’s feelings in particular. It’s really too short and could have done with some fleshing out. At 104 pages of huge font with blank pages between chapters, we just get a straight narrative and not much else. It feels almost as though my review could be longer than the book.

I don’t think I’d want more though. This one creeped me out too much. I can’t imagine how it could be better in its original French; the descriptions of the countryside might flow better, but I doubt the translator could escape the graphic descriptions of mutilation which have me shuddering an hour after completing the book. I do have to say, clever ending. This one’s based on a true story and I was definitely wondering just how true that conjecture might be.

http://chikune.com/blog/?p=948 ( )
1 vote littlebookworm | Jul 14, 2009 |
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1903, Ropraz, a small village in the Jura Mountains. The virginal daughter of a local judge dies of meningitis. On a howling December day a lone walker discovers her tomb recently opened, her body violated, left hand cut off, and heart torn out. Chessex takes this true story and weaves it into a lyrical tale fo fear and cruelty.… (more)

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