'First published in France in 1973, this unbearably sad novel from Swiss author Chessex, the first non-French writer to win the Prix Goncourt, charts a man's slow but steady path toward tragedy.Chessex perfectly captures the juxtaposition of the profound and the banal in a surreal scene where a mortuary representative hawks different models of urns to hold cremated remains. Jean's burden of guilt only grows heavier with time, and the denouement will strike many as pathetically inevitable.' Publishers Weekly
A haunting work, reminiscent of Albert Camus, that portrays with exquisite psychological detail the emotional crisis in the life of Jean Calmet, a young Swiss schoolteacher. As we watch the father's cremation in the opening chapter, we sense that, even though his father's body has been reduced to ashes, his spirit survives to haunt Jean. His father's prodigious vitality and virility had crushed his family and ruined his son's childhood. Even after his father's death, Jean cannot be free. The parental ogre's actions continue to suck Jean into a vortex of despair.
Jacques Chessex, a giant of Swiss literature, won the Grand Prix de la langue francaise and was awarded the Grand Prix Jean Giono for his entire work. Bitter Lemon Press published his novels The Vampire of Ropraz and A Jew Must Die to high acclaim. He died in 2009 at age seventy-five.