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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Ogre/The Erl-King (1970) by Michael Tournier

Book Review
The Ogre/The Erl-King (1970)
 by Michael Tournier

  I had zero expectations for The Ogre, which is typically described as a memoir of a French P.OW. during World War II.  That description doesn't do justice to The Ogre, which is a richly researched portrait of life in the innner sanctum of the Third Reich, with important portions of the narrative taking place in the Prussian hunting retreat of Hermann Goring, second in command of the Nazi regime.  The Ogre refers to both the narrator and powerful characters like Goring.  In one scene, Goring, who revelled in his role and title of being "master of the hunt," emasculates a slaughtered stack and holds forth on the visceral nature of taking a creatures testicles.

   Tournier doesn't shirk from the more disturbing details of the Holocaust, with the late entry of an escaped concentration camp victim.  The theme of pedophillia is present throughout- with the early portions of the narrative seeing the main character, Abel Tiffauges,  charged with raping a child, and the related discovery of hundred of pictures he had been secretly taking of young children.  The charges are dismissed due to the onset of World War II, and Tiffauges is quickly captured by the Germans, where he rises in importance by virtue of his extreme adaptability and lack of nationalist sentiments.

    The end result is something like a World War II memoir written by Nabokov.

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