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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 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.

Topics: Novella, Translated, Gothic, Dark, Philosophical, Death, Intimacy , Poetic, Paris, and Epistolary Novels

Published: ECW Press an imprint of ECW Press on
ISBN: 9781554909742
List price: $12.95
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Was I ironic - behaving with the sort of irony that's nothing more than a bad coat of the shameful poor? Did I forget - to forget is to omit from feeling again, it's a folly of the soul and the body - did I then forget that I fall in love each time? What an exquisite and yet thoroughly shocking read! Written as a series of journal entries in a confessional style, the reader is exposed to the mindset, the lust and the overpowering obsessive drive of a necrophiliac called Lucien. Lucien is a member of society - he runs the antiques store bequeathed to him by his father - and is a lover of the dead, regardless of sex or age. He is an individual who experiences an unusual level of enthusiasm at the prospect of visiting the catacombs of Naples, a vacation of sorts from his usual nocturnal cemetery activities in Paris. A cautious individual driven by a compulsion that he knows society cringes from and revolts against. Wittkop writes to shock the reader. She hits the reader with graphic details right off the bat on page 1. Read that page and you will either quickly shut the book and walk away or you will venture further with a combined 'sinking gut' feeling caused by a combination of morbid fascination and trepidation of anticipated horrors to come. It would be very easy for some readers to just dismiss this book as a disgusting display of morbid exhibitionism but to do so would be to dismiss the exquisite prose it is written in: Their fine powder odour is that of the bombyx. It seems to come from the heart of the earth, from the empire where the musky larvae trudge between the roots, where blades of mica gleam like frozen silver, there where the blood of future chrysanthemums wells up, among the dusty peat, the sulphureous mire. The smell of the dead is that of the return to the cosmos, that of the sublime alchemy. For nothing is as flawless as a corpse, and it becomes more and more so as time passes, until the final purity of this large ivory doll with its mute smile and its perpetually spread legs that is in each one of us. To dismiss this book would be to dismiss the well presented character self examination where Lucien's obsession shows striking parallels to what we characterize as normal displays of love and the associated tenderness for a living being. This novella is billed as being a cult classic in France in the 40 years since its original publication and I can see why. I am glad it wasn't a full length novel because I don't think I could have made my way to the end of it..... my whole body physically cringed numerous times while reading this and I don't think I could have handled much more, although I am at a loss as to what 'more' Wittkop could have brought to the story. A good part of me doesn't want to envision what might have been added. One thing for sure, this book will get you out of your comfort zone.more
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.more

Reviews

Was I ironic - behaving with the sort of irony that's nothing more than a bad coat of the shameful poor? Did I forget - to forget is to omit from feeling again, it's a folly of the soul and the body - did I then forget that I fall in love each time? What an exquisite and yet thoroughly shocking read! Written as a series of journal entries in a confessional style, the reader is exposed to the mindset, the lust and the overpowering obsessive drive of a necrophiliac called Lucien. Lucien is a member of society - he runs the antiques store bequeathed to him by his father - and is a lover of the dead, regardless of sex or age. He is an individual who experiences an unusual level of enthusiasm at the prospect of visiting the catacombs of Naples, a vacation of sorts from his usual nocturnal cemetery activities in Paris. A cautious individual driven by a compulsion that he knows society cringes from and revolts against. Wittkop writes to shock the reader. She hits the reader with graphic details right off the bat on page 1. Read that page and you will either quickly shut the book and walk away or you will venture further with a combined 'sinking gut' feeling caused by a combination of morbid fascination and trepidation of anticipated horrors to come. It would be very easy for some readers to just dismiss this book as a disgusting display of morbid exhibitionism but to do so would be to dismiss the exquisite prose it is written in: Their fine powder odour is that of the bombyx. It seems to come from the heart of the earth, from the empire where the musky larvae trudge between the roots, where blades of mica gleam like frozen silver, there where the blood of future chrysanthemums wells up, among the dusty peat, the sulphureous mire. The smell of the dead is that of the return to the cosmos, that of the sublime alchemy. For nothing is as flawless as a corpse, and it becomes more and more so as time passes, until the final purity of this large ivory doll with its mute smile and its perpetually spread legs that is in each one of us. To dismiss this book would be to dismiss the well presented character self examination where Lucien's obsession shows striking parallels to what we characterize as normal displays of love and the associated tenderness for a living being. This novella is billed as being a cult classic in France in the 40 years since its original publication and I can see why. I am glad it wasn't a full length novel because I don't think I could have made my way to the end of it..... my whole body physically cringed numerous times while reading this and I don't think I could have handled much more, although I am at a loss as to what 'more' Wittkop could have brought to the story. A good part of me doesn't want to envision what might have been added. One thing for sure, this book will get you out of your comfort zone.more
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.more
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