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October 7, 2011 10:09 pm
This gripping and gory short novel revisits one of French history’s stranger episodes. In 1870, as Napoleon III’s forces were pummelled by the Kaiser, the sleepy Périgord commune of Hautefaye succumbed to a horrifying outbreak of mass hysteria.
Its focus was a local landowner, Alain de Monéys, who was falsely taken for a Prussian spy. That de Monéys had, in fact, volunteered for national service against medical advice and made it his business to help his poorer neighbours could not save him from a series of medieval tortures, which included having horses’ shoes nailed to his feet. Not content with simply burning de Monéy’s body, several of the villagers feasted on his charred flesh.
Sticking closely to the known facts, Jean Teulé’s novelisation offers no easy explanations for what happened but the transformation from rural idyll to hell on earth is terrifyingly convincing.
Eat Him If You Like, by Jean Teulé, translated by Sue Dyson, Gallic, RRP£6.99, 144 pages
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