Praise for A Jew Must Die:
“Chessex, our new Flaubert, has no equal when describing horror without flinching, screaming sotto voce and exploring guilt in taut prose.”—Le Nouvel Observateur
“A masterpiece. Beauty of the world, ubiquity of evil, God’s silence, it’s all there, delivered like a slap to the face.”—Le Point
“A great author explores a nightmare not as anachronistic as it might appear.”—L’Hebdo
A novel based on a true story.
On April 16, 1942, a handful of Swiss Nazis in Payerne lure Arthur Bloch, a Jewish cattle merchant, into an empty stable and kill him with a crowbar. Europe is in flames, but this is Switzerland, and Payerne, a rural market town of butchers and bankers, is more worried about unemployment and local bankruptcies than the fate of nations across the border. Fernand Ischi, leader of the local Nazi cell, blames it all on the town’s Jewish population and wants to set an example, thinking the German embassy would be grateful. Ischi's dream of becoming the local gauleiter is shattered, however, when the milk containers used to dissimulate Bloch's body parts is discovered floating in a lake nearby, leading to his arrest.
Jacques Chessex, winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt, is one of Switzerland’s greatest authors. He knew the murderers, went to school with their children, and has written a terse, implacable story that has awakened memories in a country that seems to endlessly rediscover dark areas of its past.
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Jacques Chessex, born in 1934, won the Prix Goncourt, France's most prestigious literary prize for his novel L'Ogre. He is considered one of Switzerland's greatest authors, a novelist, poet, essayist and winner of the French Literature Grand Prix of the Académie Française. W.Donald Wilson is a professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada. He is a translator of fiction and non-fiction from the French and his work includes titles by Yves Thériault and Jean Heffer.From Booklist:
*Starred Review* Chessex, a prominent Swiss writer, died in 2009 at age 75. He was the first non–French citizen to win the Prix Goncourt, France’s most prestigious literary award. American readers of this particular novel, which is one of Chessex’s many, will quickly understand why he was so honored. It is a swift and stunning narrative based on a true incident. In the Swiss town of Payenne (the author’s hometown), in 1942, a group of Swiss Nazis kill a successful Jewish cattle trader. It was nothing personal, as it were, but rather an act of intimidation aimed at the Jewish community of Switzerland at large. This spare but heart-piercing novel illustrates the dementedness of Nazism (such a thing as total depravity, pure in its filth) as it captures the European mind-set of the 1930s and 1940s as people looked for scapegoats to blame for the hard economic times, which in turn made anti-Semitism and thus Nazism appealing. The writing is elegant, in provocative contrast to the human crudity and cruelty it depicts. (The atmosphere of the town is described this way: Dark currents flow unseen beneath the assurance and business bustle. Complexions are rosy or ruddy, the soil is rich, but covert dangers lurk.) Read this novel for the history it depicts and for the sheer beauty of its prose. --Brad Hooper
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