Previous: Rouletabille at Krupp's
Next: The Napus
Champavert was the archetypal collection of the French "contes cruels,"
and the book still remains among the cruellest of them all. It is also
one of the greatest collections of short stories ever published; the only
reason that it has never been translated before is that the job was so
challenging that only an insane person would tackle it. Pétrus
Borel the Lycanthrope (as he called himself) declared himself dead before
the book was published, but not many people believed him, even though
he was the most honest man in Paris. Here are seven classic tales of horror,
fantasy, and the twistings of fate, including the final story, "Champavert,
the Lycanthrope," translated from the French for the very first time
by the well-known fantastist and critic, Brian Stableford.
Published by The Borgo Press in January 2013
Review by Glenn Russell
Outsider tales from the man-wolf -- masterpiece of 19th century French literature, January 4, 2014
At the time the fiery romantic literary artist Petrus Borel penned this collection of seven short stories he was a lycanthrope, that is, a human on the outside, a wolf on the inside. And as a man-wolf he was an extreme outsider to society and culture, to convention and rules, to comfort and routine, an outsider telling his tales as he viewed humans and human society through his wolfish eyes. And what he saw wasn't pretty: any beauty and purity life offers up is defiled by twisted, debased bipeds who thrive on vanity, greed, bigotry, lecherousness and pure evil. Is it any wonder what we encounter in these pages are `Immoral Tales', tales where Borel's characters act in ways miles removed from any sense of decency and a standard of right and wrong? And is it any wonder the reading public who encountered his tales of depravity and brutality triumphing from the first word of the first sentence to the last word of the last sentence despised his writing?
So what was man-wolf Petrus Borel's message? How did he compare to other 18th and 19th century authors writing as social outsiders? Did he see our retreat from society and human interactions leading us to spiritual inwardness as did the Danish existential philosopher Soren Kierkegaard; to aesthetic freedom and ascetic renunciation as did German pessimistic philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer; to a state of nature and goodness prior to society as did French political philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau? No, not at all. For Petrus Borel, society and human life is so poisoned, so diseased, so contaminated to its very core, there is only one way out: oblivion.
With this worldview of the man-wolf Petrus Borel, we turn to a few of the tales:
Monsieur De L'Argentiere,
Don Andrea Vesalius, The
Champavert, The Lycanthrope
The Brian Stableford Website