The Vampire of Ropraz
Chessex's (and translator W. Donald Wilson's) little feat of alchemy is to be just a bit more explicit – all right, sometimes more than a bit – about hidden horrors and forbidden appetites than, say, Bram Stoker, while preserving the same sense of foreboding and isolation:
"Ropraz in the Haut-Jorat, canton of Vaud, Switzerland, 1903. A land of wolves and neglect in the early twentieth century. ... Dwellings often scattered over wastelands hemmed in by dark trees, cramped villages with squat houses. Ideas have no currency, tradition is a dead weight, and modern hygiene is unknown. ... You have to take care when employing a vagabond for the harvest, or to dig potatoes. He is the outsider, the snoop, the thief. ... In the remote countryside a young girl is a lodestar for lunacy ... Sexual privation, as it will come to be called, is added to skulking fear and evil fancies. ... But I was forgetting the astounding beauty of the place. ... "During the harsh winter of 1903, three women in the Swiss village of Ropraz are dug up from their graves, sexually assaulted, and horribly mutilated, and the search for suspects, narrated in spare prose, turns up fresh secrets and perversions. A suspect is arrested, released, then jailed again. In prison he receives visits from a mysterious woman in white, who bribes the suspect's jailers and slips in for assignations far more explicit that Victorian horror writing would have allowed. The man may or may not be the dreaded Vampire of Ropraz, but the visits trigger new violence on his part.
His ultimate fate, after he escapes, joins the French Foreign Legion, and dies amid the mud and rain of trench warfare, is a grimly humorous comment on the notion of buried secrets.
© Peter Rozovsky 2008