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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Executioner Weeps

Frédéric Dard

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To purchase The Executioner Weeps

Title: The Executioner Weeps
Author: Frédéric Dard
Genre: Novel
Written: 1956 (Eng. 2017)
Length: 157 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The Executioner Weeps - US
The Executioner Weeps - UK
The Executioner Weeps - Canada
Le bourreau pleure - Canada
Le bourreau pleure - France
Auch Todesengel weinen Tränen - Deutschland
  • French title: Le bourreau pleure
  • Translated by David Coward

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Our Assessment:

B+ : nicely dark -- even bleak -- tale

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Libération . 14/6/2002 François Riviere

  From the Reviews:
  • "Aujourd'hui encore, un David Lynch pourrait trouver, sous le trompe-l'oeil inquiétant de l'intrigue du Bourreau pleure, la matière d'une fresque nocturne chargée d'ambiguïté, et de lyrisme onirique." - François Riviere, Libération

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Executioner Weeps is narrated by Daniel Mermet, a French painter who has just begun to establish himself and who is spending some time on holiday in a small seaside resort a few kilometers south of Barcelona. The novel begins with him almost running over a woman with his car, a woman holding a violin case who came: "out of the night and leapt into the bright lights of my car". He hits her, but braked sufficiently to avoid seriously injuring her. He drives her back to the inn he is staying at and gets a doctor to check her out, and fortunately he finds: "No serious damage".
       She seems more or les fine when he looks in on her the next day -- but she doesn't remember a thing. Not even her own name. She had no identifying papers with her, either, so her identity is a complete mystery. She speaks an accentless French, so he can be fairly certain that she is also French, but beyond that she can't recollect anything about herself -- or what drove her to apparently attempt suicide.
       The authorities aren't much help. The police don't care, the French representatives aren't very interested, and Daniel is left to his own devices.
       Of course he falls for the beautiful mystery woman -- without knowing her mystery. She, too, seems happy to be with him. And they at least figure out that her name is Marianne.
       When Daniel gets invited to exhibit his paintings in the United States, the quest to figure out who she really is becomes more urgent. If he wants to take her along -- indeed, if he just wants to take her to France --, she needs papers; she needs, "officially, to become someone".
       Daniel is committed to her by then, and vows:

     "Well, I'm going to discover your identity, because that is what we have to do !"
       He has a decent plan, beginning with procuring some papers for her, and he heads off by himself for France to do that. On the way, he follows the limited clues he has as to where she might have come from. And, unfortunately, he finds out exactly who she was. And what she did.
       Given that she tried to throw herself in front of a car, it's not hard to imagine that she suffered some great trauma. And, yes, when Daniel digs a little he is confronted with Marianne's past. Lost in love, he can't turn away from what is obviously one hell of a train wreck -- "Even Zola never dreamt up a story more sordid than this" -- and he desperately tries to save a Marianne who remains largely oblivious to what lies behind her. Though there are those flashes of remembrance .....
       Dard uses the arts in his story well: Daniel paints Marianne, for example, and the only thing she was carrying when he ran her down was a violin case; he gets her a new violin and she can remember how to play. And Daniel's blind passion for her is effectively portrayed -- especially at its most explosive:
     I threw myself on her like a wild thing. I tore off her skirt, her blouse ... and crucified her there, on that bed.
       The Executioner Weeps goes from bleak to bleaker. Even the final escape -- Daniel trying to do what he had promised Marianne he would -- fails, making for the darkest of love stories right through its conclusion, Dard not sparing any blows as a brief epilogue shows just how lost Daniel remains, and just how much he has lost.
       There's some ugliness to the story that makes it difficult to fully empathize with Daniel, but the small, spare touches Dard weaves in throughout -- down to the lovers' last hide-away -- make for an impressively atmospheric novel. Briskly told, but lingering at the right moments and capturing Daniel's desperation, Dard unfolds a convincing love story that is ultimately almost all horror tale. Not a pleasant story, but impressively, awfully twisted.

- M.A.Orthofer, 6 February 2017

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The Executioner Weeps: Reviews: Frédéric Dard: Other books by Frédéric Dard under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Frédéric Dard (1921-2000) is best known for his 'San-Antonio' novels.

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