On April 16, 1942, a few days before Hitler's birthday, a handful of Swiss Nazis in Payerne lure Arthur Bloch, a Jewish cattle merchant, into a stable and kill him with an iron bar. Europe is in flames, but this is Switzerland, and Payerne, a rural market town of butchers and bankers, is more concerned with unemployment and local bankruptcies than the fate of nations across the border. Fernand Ischi, leader of the local Nazi cell, blames everything on the Jews and Bloch's murder is to be an example, a foretaste of what is to come once the Nazis take over Switzerland. Jacques Chessex, winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt, was a child in Payerne. He knew the murderers and sat next to Ischi's children in school. He has written a terse, implacable story that has awakened memories in a country that seems to endlessly rediscover dark areas of its past.
Jacques Chessex, born in 1934, won the Prix Goncourt, France's most prestigious literary prize, for his novel L'Ogre in 1973. He is considered one of Switzerland's greatest authors, a novelist, poet, essayist and winner of the French Literature Grand Prix of the Academie Francaise. His other works include Monsieur (2001), L'economie du ciel (2003) and Le vampire de Ropraz (2007), published by Bitter Lemon Press as The Vampire of Ropraz.