The Horrific Suffering of the Mind-Reading Monster Hercules Barefoot: His Wonderful Love and His Terrible Hatred

Carl-Johan Vallgren, Author, Paul Britten, Translator, Veronica Britten-Austin, Translator , trans. from the Swedish by Paul and Veronica Britten-Austin. HarperCollins $23.95 (282p) ISBN 978-0-06-084199-7

As its subtitle hints, Swedish author Vallgren's weirdly compelling first novel to be translated Stateside summons a world of light and dark, beauty and deformation. Set in the early 1800s, the story follows Hercule Barfuss, who is born deaf, dumb and grotesquely misshapen, with a "dark red cavity" for a face, in a German whorehouse. But he has a gentle, intelligent nature and a budding gift of telepathy, which reveals people's innermost, unacknowledged desires. Reared in the brothel, Hercule forms a deep bond with a beautiful girl, Henriette Vogel, who was born there the same night he was. After the loving pair is tragically separated at age 10, Hercule traverses Europe—living in a Jesuit monastery, an asylum and with a traveling freak show—persecuted everywhere as he seeks out Henriette. Along with Hercule's relentless search for Henriette, it is a sadistic cardinal's pursuit of Hercule ("a demon") that propels the novel. The book unravels, though, when Hercule, warped by hardship, embarks on a vengeful rampage. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 01/30/2006
Release date: 04/01/2006
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 282 pages - 978-0-06-084214-7
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-4481-1375-0
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-09-946439-6
Hardcover - 384 pages - 978-1-84343-151-0
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