Thoughts on L’Adversaire

adversaireA couple of months ago I mentioned that I discovered that we lived in the same village as a notorious mythomaniac and killer, who has been the subject of a book and a film. I recently succumbed to my morbid curiosity and read the book, which pretty much reiterated all the things I had found out from my neighbours. The author Emmanuel Carrère has been accused of romanticising Romand, but I don’t think he does that at all. In fact, he allows Romand to be condemned by his own words and actions (his coldness and lack of remorse are completely chilling), but also revealing the charm and intelligence of a man who managed to fool so many people for so long.  The author is a proponent of the Catholic idea of evil residing in all of us, and that perhaps this ‘adversary’ has been so cunning in this case that the perpetrator has started believing his own lies. 

Instead of a conventional book review, however, I just wanted to share a poem inspired by the whole story.

Village Blues on a Sunny Day

We lived nearby but
in the growth of tulgey wood and velvet moth
he went unnoticed.
A busy town, a hasty life.
We knew each other for hello,
discuss the weather, will it snow,
school events to plan for,
but no substance to the smiles.

I peer from my upper window now
with less envy at your hammock of ease
poolside limbs perfectly tanned
flower tubs pregnant with beauty.
For beneath the poised completeness
who knows what lies, ice fraud,
the curdling compromise of a heart fraught
with keeping up appearances.

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18 thoughts on “Thoughts on L’Adversaire”

  1. It doesn’t surprise me you succumbed to reading it… think I’d have to, too. Poem is fab – really replicates that ‘false’ front, hinting at what lies beneath…

    Now you’ve read it, has it changed how you feel living there at all?

  2. ha – we often see just what is on the surface – and honestly i’m glad not to know every dark and dirty secret of those around me in my neighborhood… though sometimes it def. would be interesting as well…

    1. People sometimes get so envious of those they believe are leading ‘perfect lives’, but it always seems to me that the truth is never quite that simple… There really are some neighbours though, who have a beautiful house, pool and outdoorsy lifestyle in summer that I can’t help but look at them with longing…

  3. I think it’s so unfair to do reviewing in poetry! I shall have to try to keep up…

    There was a young man named Darcy
    Who made all the pretty girls curtsey…

    Hmm… needs some more work, I feel! 😉

    1. Why, don’t you know that it will be mandatory from now on to review everything in poetry? Especially crime:
      There was a fierce man called Rick Jagger
      who was killed stone dead with a dagger…

  4. I must say there is a part of me that is completely intrigued with living near some crazy person like that. I would probably be caught peeking at them and studying them. Ha. But there is a nother part that would be completely freaked out. Lol.

    1. He was arrested and imprisoned in 1993, so way before I moved here. But he is due to be released this year (for ‘model behaviour’ in prison), although I doubt he would come back to this area. So yes, I have a mix of freaking out and morbid curiosity in me too.

  5. I read that book in the past year. I am puzzled at the story of this man… I had seen a TV documentary some years ago so I knew the basic facts. What made me cringe was Carrère’s fascination with the case. Maybe he was just putting in writing the kind of thoughts we all have when we search over and over for more news about some sordid event, trying to convince ourselves that no one in our immediate environment could be “like that”… Morbid curiosity, as you say.

    Love your image “curdling compromise”, smells like sour milk.

    1. I think we all have that ‘fascination’ with cases such as these, which explains why there are so many true crime recounts, or newspaper columns when shootings or pilot suicides or other things out of the norm occur. We are perhaps too eager to label such people as ‘crazy’ or ‘evil’ and think that the others around them must have been stupid to miss ‘their true nature’. I think Carrère captures that ‘repelled fascination and smugness’ of people well.

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