Finished January 17
A Jew Must Die by Jacques Chessex, translated by W. Donald Wilson
This short novel is based on a true story. On April 16, 1942 a group of five men led by Fernand Ischi lures a man to a stable in the Swiss village of Payerne, kill him and dismember his body.
Ischi is a man unhappy with his own life, who has eagerly come under the influence of a pro-Nazi clergyman and is eager to prove himself and send a message to the Jews in his community of what he believes will soon come to them all. He has found eager assistants in two brothers who have lost their own-mismanaged farm and thus resent those farmers and the men who buy their product, the brothers' farmhand who follows them blindly, and the apprentice mechanic from Ischi's family's garage. Ischi's character is shown to us also in his relationship with women, as despite having a wife and two children, he engages in affairs, including a sadistic one with a very young woman. We see him for what he is: a man hungry for power and revenge, with a deluded sense of his own worth and entitlements.
The author of this book grew up in Payerne and was eight years old at the time this murder took place. He went to school with Ischi's daughter, the son of the local policeman, and the son of the judge that presided over the murder trials. Part of this story is his own reaction to the events and why he felt compelled to share them in this book, decades later. Chessex is one of Switzerland's most famous writers and has won both the Prix Goncourt and the French Literature Grand Prix of the Académie Française.