Guillotine: Its Legend and Lore

Daniel Gerould, Author Blast Books $14.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-922233-02-1
Gerould presents 200 years of the most famous executioner's tool, the guillotine, from details of its use to its appearance in literature, the visual arts and music. His historical account ranges from the guillotine's invention in the early 1790s as a means of making capital punishment more humane--through instantaneous deathp. 13 --to its notoriety as the great symbol of France's Reign of Terror. Gerould offers reports of post-Terror balls for relatives of the guillotined and 19th-century medical experiments p. 56 to discover if consciousness remains after the head is severed. Short chapters trace guillotine themes in Hugo and Dickens, Berlioz and the performances of '70s rock icon Alice Cooper, and others. He also presents tidbits about the cult of personality surrounding France's state executioners and about underpublicized use of the guillotine by the Nazis. Though Gerould (who edited American Melodrama ) never quite gets around to his promised cultural interpretation of the guillotine's role in Western imagination, this book will find an audience among those fascinated by a device that has come to represent so much about modern revolution, human rights and terror. Illustrations not seen by PW. (June)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1993
Release date: 01/01/1993
Genre: Nonfiction
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