Book review – The Vampire of Ropraz
– by Shawn Conner
This reviewer has been to Switzerland. And it is scary. But not as scary as the Switzerland in Jacques Chessex‘ The Vampire of Ropraz (Bitter Lemon Press, 106 pps, trade pbk).
Prix Goncourt-winning author Chessex reaches deep into the Swiss countryside circa 1903. The Haut-Jorat, canton of Vaud is “A land of wolves and neglect… Ideas have no currency, tradition is a dead weight, and modern hygiene is unknown.” Hmm, sounds a little like Burning Man…
Anyway, into this forbidding milieu comes “a vampire” – in the early-20th-century European meaning of the term, which is mainly generic for an unexplainable evil. The desecrated corpse of a young woman is discovered; it’s been removed, mutilated, and then returned to its grave. First the nearby villagers in Ropraz and then everyone in the surrounding area is ready to take up a torch, demanding justice. When two more bodies are similarly desecrated a perpetrator, or a scapegoat, must be found.
It’s probably not spoiling anything to say that there’s no Robert Pattinson-type of heartthrob at the core of this tale, which apparently is based on true events. And on the Twilight series or Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) scale of things, The Vampire of Ropraz lacks the neo-Gothic romance and sexy thrills. But this slim, elegantly written meditation on evil, fear, superstition and fate will stay with the reader long after the events of last week’s Vampire Diaries have faded.