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.
|Product dimensions:||4.90(w) x 7.10(h) x 0.30(d)|
About 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 email@example.com and The Hanged Man.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A short book about a necrophiliac, told in confessional diary form, that narrates a year in the love life of a man who desires only the dead. It is brilliantly done: alternately sweet, nauseating and blackly comic. The closest parallel is of course Lolita but the narrator here is less self-pitying and more empathetic towards his lovers. The relationships between the necrophiliac and his corpses are at the centre of the novel: he quarrels with them, worships them, reconciles with them and tries desperately to stave off their inevitable decay. The impossibility of that task of course dooms his every affair - but it doesn't stop the necrophiliac trying again and again. This is a book that raises questions about the contingency of desire (the narrator's first sexual encounter with the dead is at once moving and disgusting), the transience of love and importance of emotions that only flow one way. It is well worth reading. But probably not in public.