A Jew Must Die by Jacques Chessex

A Jew Must DieA Jew Must Die is a short book, less than 100 pages in length. It is not a work of fiction; it is based on real events that took place in the village of Payerne in Switzerland in 1942. Those events have been fictionalised by Chessex, he himself was eight years old and was living in Payerne at that time. He met some of the characters in the story; his classmates were their sons and daughters.

Inevitably two other books came to my mind when I was reading A Jew Must Die, In Cold Blood and Brodeck’s Report.  The first one because it is also based on a true story, the second due to some similarities in the events. However, in my opinion they are both by far much better books than this one. Chessex has not found the adequate form to develop his story.

Having said that I would have like to think that given the years, these events cannot happen again in our world, but unfortunately just by reading the news today we can find similarities taken place somewhere around us. And the question still remains unanswered Why? ¿Por qué? Pourquoi? Warum?

I can only finalise with Martin Niemoeller’s message:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me–
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Jacques Chessex, who died in October 2009 at age seventy-five, was a poet, essayist, and painter as well as a novelist. He was the first non-French citizen to receive the prestigious Prix Goncourt for his novel, L’Ogre. In 2007 he was awarded the Prix Jean Giorno for his life’s work. According to the obituary published in London’s Guardian, his work focused on “revealing the darkly uncomfortable truths beneath the pristine surface of Swiss society.”

Bitter Lemon Press

A Jew Must Die has been reviewed at The Complete Review, The IndependentIrresistible Targets.

A Jew Must Die

by Jacques Chessex

Translated from the French by W. Donald Wilson

Bitter Lemon Press, London, 2010

Original Title: Un Juif pour l’exemple (2009)

Number of pages: 96

ISBN: 978-1-904738-51-0

Best Book of the Year 2010 by the Madrid Booksellers Association

The Madrid Booksellers Association have short-listed five books on its tenth edition of the Prize for Best Book of the Year 2010:

El amor verdadero by José María Guelbenzu (Siruela, 2010)

Cualquier otro día by Dennis Lehane (RBA, 2010) translated by Carlos Milla e Isabel Ferrer original title: The Given Day (2008). Just wanted to know why RBA doesn’t mention the names of the translators.

La agonía de Francia by Manuel Chávez Nogales (Libros del Asteroide, 2010)

El hombre que amaba los perros by Leonardo Padura  (Tusquets, 2009)

La hija de Robert Poste by Stella Gibbons (Impedimenta, 2009) translated by José C. Vales, original title: Cold Comfort Farm (1932).

The winner will be announce on October 14. The award ceremony will take place in November.