A Translator’s Reflections on the Story of Two Teenage Murderers Separated by Almost Two Centuries.

John Washington in The Believer:

Tumblr_inline_nziedd4ZBl1rglck1_500“He donned his holiday clothes, had his sister sing a canticle beginning ‘O happy day! holy joy!” and, his mind wholly deranged, his weapon, an ax, in hand, he executed his mother, his sister, and his young brother.”

So one Dr. Vastel describes Pierre Rivière’s parricide-fratricide of June 3, 1835 in the rural French village of Faucterie. The description comes from the book, edited by Michel Foucault, I, Pierre Rivière, Having Slaughtered My Mother, My Sister, and My Brother. The astonishing volume includes the seventy-page memoir (“of remarkable eloquence,” according to presiding judge M. Daigrement) written by the nineteen-year-old murderer, Pierre, in which he candidly describes the particulars of his difficult family life and the details before, during, and after he murders his mother, his sister, and his brother, in that order.

Pierre writes of his youth: “I crucified frogs and birds, I had also invented another torture to put them to death. It was to attach them to a tree with three sharp nails through the belly. I called that enceepherating them, I took the children with me to do it and sometimes I did it all by myself.”

More here.