The Tyrant

Jacques Chessex, trans. from the French by Martin Sokolinsky. Bitter Lemon, $14.95 trade paper (202p) ISBN 978-1-904738-94-7
First published in France in 1973, this unbearably sad novel from Swiss author Chessex (1934–2009), the first non-French writer to win the Prix Goncourt, charts a man’s slow but steady path toward tragedy. Schoolteacher Jean Calmet finds no closure when he returns home to the Swiss municipality of Lutry for his father’s funeral. As an adolescent, Jean both loved and feared his father, the domineering Dr. Paul Calmet. Jean’s two brothers and two sisters likewise feel ambivalent, unchanged by their father’s death, sharing “the same tense expressions, the same irritating and almost fearful gestures.” Chessex (A Jew Must Die) perfectly captures the juxtaposition of the profound and the banal in a surreal scene where a mortuary representative hawks different models of urns to hold cremated remains. Jean’s burden of guilt only grows heavier with time, and the denouement will strike many as pathetically inevitable. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/26/2012
Release date: 04/01/2012
Ebook - 217 pages - 978-1-904738-95-4
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