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The Necrophiliac

The Necrophiliac

by Gabrielle Wittkop

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?For more than three decades, Lucien — one of the most notorious characters in the history of the novel — has haunted the imaginations of readers around the world.  Remarkably, the astounding protagonist of Gabrielle Wittkop’s lyrical 1972 novella, The Necrophiliac, has never appeared in English until now.   This new translation


?For more than three decades, Lucien — one of the most notorious characters in the history of the novel — has haunted the imaginations of readers around the world.  Remarkably, the astounding protagonist of Gabrielle Wittkop’s lyrical 1972 novella, The Necrophiliac, has never appeared in English until now.   This new translation introduces readers to a masterpiece of French literature, striking not only for its astonishing subject matter but for the poetic beauty of the late author’s subtle, intricate writing.   Like the best writings of Edgar Allan Poe or Baudelaire, Wittkop’s prose goes far beyond mere gothic horror to explore the melancholy in the loneliest depths of the human condition, forcing readers to confront their own mortality with an unprecedented intimacy.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A Parisian antique dealer with a lust for corpses indulges his macabre fetish in this faux shocking novella by the late Wittkop (1920–2002). It's written in a diary format that plainly records the thoughts and actions of Lucien, a middle-aged man of some means who suffers a terrible loneliness that can only be assuaged by having vigorous sex with putrid corpses. Sometimes Lucien attains heights of feverish passion, such as for Suzanne, a woman he exhumes from the Montparnasse Cemetery and keeps packed in ice in his flat, delirious with a happiness edged by decay. Lucien later travels to Naples and descends into the catacombs for more gnarly adventures before spiriting off the bodies of two Swedish adolescent siblings who have recently drowned. While the material is inarguably gruesome, it's not especially smart or alarming, though it may hold some appeal to the young and disaffected who haven't yet been turned on to the marquis de Sade. (May)
From the Publisher

"A striking book, unique in its kind, in which one suddenly finds oneself thrown up against 'that flesh so cold, so soft, so deliciously tight, found only in the dead.'"  —Actuel

"There lies within it a velvet smooth writing of baroque coldness, which goes marvelously well with its exceptional subject matter: a man who unearths cadavers, takes them into his apartment, loves them, and weeps to see the decomposition of flesh that takes them away from him. . . . The Necrophiliac is a queer book: a flawless delicacy of oblique irrationality."  —Hubert Juin, Combat

"It's a fascinating dive into the abyss into which Gabrielle Wittkop has invited us. The loves of a necrophiliac—a real one—so abrupt, raw, direct, disturbing and yet capable of moving us to pity. . . . An ode without a touch of complaisance or amorality to the icy beauty of the cold sexes and putrescent charms of bodies the colors of wax with the strange odor of moths. An arresting style with macabre, hypnotic accents."  —Philippe Lecardonnel, L'idiot international

"This would be a poor and revolting little book (fewer than 100 pages, which is quite enough, really) if it did not have such a poised tone and sensibility, such intelligence, behind it. . . . This is a masterpiece." —The Guardian (July 21, 2011)

"This text exists in a purity that is as refreshing as it is uncompromisingly elegant. A rare and valuable read for any mind not weakened with the drugs of dross." —www.cosmoetica.com

"Stylishly written, The Necrophiliac is a disturbing but impressive work." —The Complete Review (August 5, 2011)

Product Details

ECW Press
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.30(d)

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Read an Excerpt

November 2, 19…Festival of the dead. Lucky day. Montparnasse Cemetery was admirably grey this morning. The immense crowd of mourners squeezed into its walkways among the glorious chrysanthemums, and the air had the bitter, intoxicating taste of love. Eros and Thanatos. All these sexes under the earth, does anyone ever think of them?

The night falls quickly. Even though it’s the festival of the dead, I won’t go out tonight.

I remember. I’d just turned eight. One night in November, similar to this one today, I was left alone in my room, which was invaded by shadow. I was worried that the house was full of strange comings and goings, full of mysterious whispers that, I felt, had something to do with my mother’s illness. Above all, I felt she had forgotten me. I don’t know why I didn’t dare to turn on the lights, lying silent and afraid in the dark. I was getting bored. To distract and console myself, I tried unbuttoning my little trousers. There I found that sweet, hot little thing that always kept me company. I no longer know how my hand discovered the necessary movements, but I was suddenly captured in a vortex of pleasures from which it seemed nothing in the world could ever free me. I surprised myself beyond the limits of imagination to discover such a resource for pleasure in my very own flesh and to feel my proportions modify themselves in a way that I didn’t even suspect just moments before. I sped up my movements and my pleasure grew but, at the very moment that a wave — born in the depths of my entrails — seemed to want to submerge me and lift me above myself, quick steps resounded in the corridor, the door opened abruptly, the light flashed in. Pale, haggard, my grandmother held herself at the threshold and her trouble was so great that she didn’t even notice the state I was in. “My poor child! Your mother is dead.” Then, grabbing me by the hand, she forcefully dragged me with her. I was wearing a sailor suit, and thankfully the coat was long enough to mask the fly that I hadn’t had the time to close.

My mother’s room was full of people, but sunken in a half–darkness. I noticed my father on his knees at the bedside, and he was crying, his head stuffed into the sheets. At first I had trouble recognizing my mother in this woman who seemed infinitely more beautiful, grand, young, and majestic than she had ever seemed until then. Grandmother was sobbing. “Kiss your mother again once more,” she said, pushing me towards the bed. I brought myself up to this marvellous woman stretched out among the whiteness of the linen. I placed my lips on her waxen face; I squeezed her shoulders in my little arms; I breathed in her intoxicating odour. It was that of the bombyx that the natural history professor had passed out at school and that I had brought up in a cardboard box. That fine, dry, musky odour of leaves, larvae, and stones was leaving Mother’s lips; it was already seeping out into her hair like a perfume. And suddenly, the interrupted pleasure took over my childish flesh with a disconcerting abruptness. Pressed against Mother’s shoulder, I felt a delicious commotion rush over me while I poured my heart out for the first time.

“Poor child!” said Grandmother, who had understood nothing about my sighs.

Meet the Author

Gabrielle Wittkop was the author of several novels in her native French. Don Bapst is an award-winning filmmaker and the author of danger@liaisons.com and The Hanged Man.

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