Saturday, December 19, 2009

'The Vampire of Ropraz'

Le Vampire de Ropraz
by Jacques Chessex
Fiction, 2007 (English translation, 2008)
Translated from the French by W. Donald Wilson
Bitter Lemon Press, trade pb, 90 p.
Mildly spoilerific blurb from the back cover:
Jacques Chessex, winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt, takes a true story and weaves it into a lyrical tale of fear and cruelty.

1903, Ropraz, a small village in 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 stable-boy with blood-shot eyes, is arrested, convicted, placed into psychiatric care. In 1915, he vanishes…
From the title you might be tempted to think this is just another typical vampire story, but this slim novella isn’t really a vampire story at all. It’s more the story of the people of a small village and how they react to the belief that there is a vampire in their midst. It’s a story of fear and superstition and how that makes people behave when they feel their way of life is threatened. How previously friendly neighbours start locking their doors and turning on each other on little more than rumour. I don’t know how much of it is factual, but what I found especially interesting, and sadly believable, is that this story is allegedly based on an actual occurrence. Which in turn makes the final twist a fascinating ‘what if’. The writing is very sparse, but the brevity of the prose is actually quite effective. I should probably also mention that the descriptions of the attacks can be rather gruesome albeit matter-of-fact. All in all though, an insightful look at human nature and a tale that lingers long after the last page has been turned.

Review of The Vampire of Ropraz at Three Percent (where I first heard about this book)

Buy this book at: | | | |

My Rating: 3.5/5
(#55 for 2009, R.I.P. IV Challenge, Orbis Terrarum Challenge, Lost in Translation Challenge)

Also reviewed by:
The Complete Review
Medieval Bookworm
Detectives Beyond Borders
Literary License
If I've missed yours, let me know and I'll link to it here.

The small print:  I purchased this book for my personal library. Links in this post to Amazon (including book cover) or The Book Depository contain my Associates or Affiliates ID respectively.  Purchases made via these links earn me a small commission.  For more information visit my About Page.


  1. This sounds like a book I'd like. Thanks for the review!

    Diary of an Eccentric

  2. I like the sound of this one. I'll have to look for it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Nat.

  3. gruesome description indeed. and interesting that it is based on an actual occurrence.
    btw: you've just been awarded

  4. Anna - The descriptions are pretty gruesome but it was an interesting account of human nature. I hope you like it.

    Wendy - You're welcome. Enjoy probably isn't the right word given the nature of the story, but I found it quite fascinating. I hope you appreciate it as much as I did, if you get a chance to read it.

    Velvet - Thank you so much for the award!


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