Alain’s thoughts wandered as he travelled along, dreaming, carefree, and revelling happily in his surroundings. His horse’s mane rose and fell in gentle waves as they trotted along. Vine-covered slopes bordered the dusty, well-worn track, and the sun was striving to sweeten and swell the grapes. The oppressive heat had even silenced the cicadas. Alain’s drooped and he began to daydream.
He opened his eyes again and saw a stream of traders, labourers and artisans ahead of him on the dirt track. They resembled a flock of geese as they converged on the fair, some on out, and others riding donkeys, or driving carts. Alain squeezed past on the right, overtaking two farmers from Mainzac.
Warning! This book is not for the faint hearted! In fact, I didn’t think that I was faint of heart until I read this novella and discovered how squeamish it made me. It’s full of blood and gore, detailed descriptions and is definitely not a book for everyone.
So this book is what I’d describe as creative non fiction. It’s based around facts that we have surrounding the death of Alain de Monéys in Hautefaye, France. It is during 1870 and the height of the Franco-Prussian war. Napoleon III had been captured by the enemy yet all of rural France remained faithful to their Emperor. Alain de Monéys was tasked with explaining that the war was not going well for the French. In an altercation and misunderstanding, Alain de Monéys was thought to have said “down with the French”. This is what started off a revolt and a mob mentality in the people of Hautefaye. The parish priest attempts to distract the mob with drink but all in vain, for they continue to beat him. They even try and get the sympathy of the mayor to pardon the innocent Monéys, yet unable to show his leadership against the mob was told to have said “eat him if you like.” So they did.
This novella is not for the faint hearted, I repeat. The descriptions of the physical torture sustained by Alain de Monéys are very vivid and do not lack in their clarity. He is not only beaten, but he sustains some very painful injuries. The first is that of having horseshoes nailed to his feet, and the toes chopped off from his right foot. Definitely not a scene for the squeamish reader. Following this he is defecated and urinated on, as well as being forced to watch the love of his life defiled before him; so mainly emotional as opposed to physical trauma. Then the very worst becomes of him. The frenchmen attempt to quarter him by pulling at his limbs, however Monéys is able to escape. He’s later caught and the only option they see fit is to roast him alive.
The more I think about this novella the more exciting it becomes. What we are faced with here is basic fact about a place and a time, and then people’s names. We don’t have access to all of this dialogue and complete description of what exactly it was that happened to him. And in what order. So for Teulé to have created this novella which intertwines fact and fiction, which is in no way easy let me tell you, we get a better understanding of what happened during this time. It’s so descriptive that sometimes it feels as if it should be a piece of fiction from the imagination of a very dark author, yet it’s based in fact, which in itself is terrifying. As you read, it becomes very psychological as you debate as to whether or not what’s being written is fact or fictitious, and also wondering how people would be driven to such an extreme.
Total pages – 144
Total read time – 1 hour 15
Rating /10 – 7
Recommend – Yes for a gruesome read