Plot summary[ edit ] Like much Gothic fiction, The Werewolf of Paris opens with a frame story in which the author explains his struggle with the fantastic elements of his tale. Here the narrator, an anonymous American working on his doctoral research in Paris, discovers a manuscript in the hands of some trash-pickers. 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. Bertrand flees to Paris after his assault on a prostitute, his incestuous union with his mother, and his murder of a friend in their home village. Aymar tries to find Bertrand by studying the details of local crimes, such as the mutilation of corpses and various murders.
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The opium-sweet attraction of death ! Thats what brought me to this book, what brought you to this book: the lure of death. One of the ways we make peace with death is by making light of it. We make light of the dark thing that awaits us all. We read Gothic novels and watch monster movies. We wait with bated breath for the werewolf to start gobbling people up. Sex and death. Eros and Thanatos. Inextricably intertwined. Sophie, the dark beauty loved by the werewolf, muses about death as she lies in bed at night.
During the day, she is drawn to Bertrand and his wolfish inviting eyes. And at night she thinks of those eyes as she indulges in Gothic fantasies of coffins, graves, and cemeteries. The love affair that ensues is both erotic and grotesque. Literally, man is a wolf to man. What was a werewolf who had killed a couple of prostitutes, who had dug up a few corpses, compared with these bands of tigers slashing at each other with daily increasing ferocity!
Instead of thousands, future ages will kill millions. It will go on, the figures will rise and the process will accelerate! Leading up to this revelation are numerous examples of human wickedness, each act of cruelty and violence leading to the next. The novel begins with a horrid story of Medieval sadism which serves as an origin story for the events that unfold later.
And evil breeds evil. The horrors and cruelties of history link hands down the ages. One deed engenders another, nay, multiplies itself. One perpetrator of crime infects another. Their kind increases like flies. This book held numerous surprises for me, the first of which was the quality of the writing. In the beginning of the novel, Aymar is firmly opposed to the Church. The priest speaks of astronomy and architecture and even socialism.
When I read the rape scene, I expected the novel to go in an anti-Catholic direction, but it did not. I have nothing to do with superstitions. The atheistic worldview is also treated in this ambitious novel. The preposterous accusations made against the priests and nuns of the Sacred Heart of Picpus demonstrate that irrationality and fanaticism are as abundant in the secular world as anywhere else.
Orthopedic leg braces used by the disabled children cared for by the nuns become Inquisitional torture devices. Endore reproduces the interrogation of a priest by the anti-Catholic Raoul Rigault, a conversation so farcical that one wishes it were fiction. And the most hideous display of cruelty in the name of science over superstition comes from Dr. Dumas, the director of the private mental hospital where Bertrand will spend his final days. Dumas regards lycanthropy as a mental illness and denounces the Medieval Church for burning werewolves even as he viciously abuses his patients and defrauds their relatives.
Meat-Eating If I was surprised at the vindication of religion and the critique of atheistic science in this novel, I was many times more surprised at its commentary on meat-eating. The horror of werewolves is not merely that they kill people. It is that they eat people. Whether they should be considered people while in wolf form is a question not addressed in this book, but I think it is an interesting question nonetheless. Aymar encounters a group of wealthy entrepreneurs who conceive of a plan to avoid starvation during the famine.
He is invited to a dinner with a menu that turns my stomach to even read. Menus with cow, pig, and chicken on them turn my stomach. These are not animals people are accustomed to eat. Seeing them on the menu must, I imagine, arouse as much disgust in the average non-vegetarian as it does in vegetarians. And this should be food for thought. If it is horrible to eat a dog, is it not equally horrible to eat a pig? Why are cows on the menu and not horses and cats?
The vegetarian sees death where the omnivore sees only dinner. But can anyone still eat a leg of lamb or a chicken breast and not see a dismembered corpse after following the werewolf on his nightly dinner-run in the cemetery?
It concerns two beloved elephants who lived in the zoo. They were sold to a butcher who catered to the wealthy. This footnote affected me more profoundly than anything else in the novel. Human beings should be what these elephants thought we were. But the reality of our species is nothing like that. Homo homini lupus. Man is a wolf to man.
And to elephants. And to every other creature on Earth. It is no coincidence that, walking past a butcher shop one day, Aymar sees the butcher and thinks he is Father Pitamont, the priest who raped Josephine and sired Bertrand. What could be more apropos? A brutal profession for a brutal man. He perverted the act of love by making it an act of violence and now, instead of leading his flock to eternal life, he leads innocent beasts to their deaths.
The blood he sheds is a hideous parody of the blood of Christ. One of those unfortunates is Jean Robert. The scene would be comic if it were not so cruel. The law, as practiced by this judge, is a twisted thing designed to confound the average man with mind games and circular reasoning.
Robert does not need to he held in jail awaiting his trial. Elsewhere people seek out ways to circumvent the law. Then he is advised by the priest how to circumvent the prohibition on disabled priests. Money cannot fail to make its appearance in this story which features so many avenues of human corruption. For the wealthy, war is an opportunity to become even more wealthy.
For the poor, it is merely an opportunity to suffer stoically. Dumas, charged with the care of vulnerable mental patients, sees them, not as human beings to be treated with compassion and dignity, but as a source of francs to line his pockets. And he is ever ready to swindle their families to increase his own wealth. Even the Madame of a house of prostitution is concerned, not with the well-being of the prostitute Bertrand mutilated, but with how much money she can extort from his uncle. Sex and Death With all the surprises this book held for me, was I surprised by any of the sex and death?
Naturally I expected sex and death in a book about a werewolf. I hoped not to be surprised by too much violence and I doubted that a book published in could surprise me with sex, but I ended up being surprised by both. With the violence, the death, I was surprised, not by the werewolf himself, but by nearly everyone else. I knew next to nothing about the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune when I started reading this book, so it was with true horror that I read about the atrocities committed by men and women against their fellow human beings.
With the sex, I was far more surprised than I thought I could be. Promiscuity and prostitution are one thing, but rape and incest are quite another. Later, in a moment of weakness, Bertrand will seduce his mother and she will conceive. But the greatest shock for me concerned his romance with Sophie.
With two such unusual origins, the union of Bertrand and Sophie was bound to be a strange one. What surprised me the most was the parody their union made of love, and not just romantic love, but maternal love and Christian love as well. He is gradually killing her by drinking her blood. In a parody of sexual penetration, a knife, supplied by Sophie herself, becomes a phallic symbol. To Sophie, who fantasizes about a double suicide, this is romantic, but there is nothing romantic about it.
There is no beauty, only ugliness. There was scarcely a portion of her body that had not one or more cuts on it. The older ones had healed to scars that traversed her dark skin with lines that were visibly lighter than the surrounding area. The newer ones were angry welts of red, or hard ridges of scab. It is Sophie who insists that Bertrand feed from her.
She takes on the protective maternal role, giving herself to Bertrand as a mother gives herself to her child Finally, there is the parody of Christian love, of agape. The men in the canteen lust for Sophie and she, in her love for Bertrand, loves them all. She loves all of mankind and wants to give herself to all of mankind—literally, not metaphorically. To the whole battalion that looked at her with lusting, hungry eyes.
The Werewolf of Paris
His father was a coal miner, inventor, and investor from Pittsburgh who often had difficulty making ends meet. During this time, Isidor sold an invention and dreamt that his dead wife willed the children to have a European education, so he sent them to Vienna with the newfound windfall. The children lived in Vienna for five years under the care of a Catholic governess, but when Isidor disappeared and their funds ran short, they returned to Pittsburgh and lived together. According to his own account, he scraped together the money to attend, even renting out his bed to a wealthier student while he slept on the floor. He unsuccessfully pursued a Ph. The Werewolf of Paris is described by Stableford as "entitled to be considered the werewolf novel".
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