“What is horror?” This emotional novella, a cri de coeur from the eminent Swiss writer Jacques Chessex, looks unflinchingly at this question in the context of a horrific crime that took place during the author’s childhood: the murder of respected Jewish cattle dealer Arthur Bloch by Swiss Nazi thugs. In spare, stark prose interspersed with poetic descriptions of the idyllic Payerne countryside, the author paints a harrowing portrait of inexorable hatred. Years later, when he confronts the hate-monger who gave the go-ahead for the murder, he reflects, “…there is such a thing as total depravity…and it is a kind of damnation.” Anguished by the evil of the Holocaust, the author says that “…redemption is so remote.” Yet this heartfelt remembrance is an eloquent first step in that very direction.
Shira R. London is the librarian at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community High School in Baltimore, MD. She holds an M.L.S. from Columbia University.