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On a stormy night in 1813, a doctor is called to the aid of two prostitutes in childbirth. To one is born a healthy girl, Henriette, to the other, what can only be described as a monster: a boy , Hercule, deaf-mute and hideously deformed, but with the power to read minds.
As he tells the story of Hercule's bizarre and colourful life, which leads him from the bordello of his birth to a travelling freak show and then a jesuit monastery and an asylum, Vallgren paints a magical picture of nineteenth century Europe. This picturesque fable is filled with curiosities but is, at its heart, an extraordinary and unforgettable love story.
Carl Johan Vallgren is a Swedish author. He was born in 1964 and still lives in Sweden. He has written eight novels and has had his works published in twenty one countries, The Horrfic Sufferings Of The Mind Reading Monster Hercules Barefoot His Wonderful Love And His Terrible Hatred, is the first of Vallgren's novels to be translated into English, he wrote it in2002 but it wasn't published here until 2005.
His next novel, Documents Concerning Rubashov The Gambler, was published here in 2007.
The story begins with a letter between two long lost relatives. The letter writer Johnathan Barefoot is writing to Miss Vogel who wishes to know more about Hercules Barefoot who was Johnathan's Great-grandfather. Mush of this letter won't make much sense at first but Johnathan then begins to narrate his Hercules' life story and things become clearer.
The story then cuts to a stormy night in 1813, a doctor is called to the local brothel where to prostitutes are in labour in rooms next to eachother, one girl's labour is going well while the other girl is in trouble and needs medical assistance. On the stroke of midnight both babies enter the world in one room a healthy baby girl is born but in the second room, the room where the doctor is attending , there is no hope for the mother who dies and to her is born a seriously deformed boy. The boy has dwarf legs, arms that don't work, one eye in the centre of his head, no nose, a cleft palette and a forked tongue, apart from this the baby appears to be deaf-mute. The doctor doesn't think the child will live more than 24 hours and a priest is called, when seeing the child the priest declares him the work of the devil and refuses to baptise him.
The brothel owner Madam Schall agrees to keep the child until his life is over but despite various afflictions and illness the child lives. Hercule and Henriette (the girl born in the room next door) form a strong bond and are never apart. Hercule is happy until a few years later tragedy strikes at the brothel which causes a series of unfortunate events for Hercule (I will not say what as I want to try avoid spoilers). This results in himself and Henriette being separated.
Henriette is forced into prostitution while Hercule spends time in an asylum being beaten and abused, he is rescued by a monk and taken to serve at the monastary but a secret sect of the Vatican who believe he is demon have other ideas for him.Throughout his ordeals the one thing that keeps him going is the thought of being reunited with Henriette.
After more traumas and being part of a traveling freak show, the pair are finally reunited and despite Henriette being married the couple become lovers until Henriette is murdered.
The murder of his one true love is too much for Hercule to bear and he begins to take revenge on all the people that he feels had a hand in the events that lead up to Henriette Vogel's death.
I got this book off readitswapit.co.uk. I had never actually heard of this book or the author before but out of the list of books on offer to me with that particular swap I found this most appealing.
The novel was described as 'Perfume fir a new generation' , I really enjoyed Perfume because I don't think there has been anything like it written before or will be again, so I thought I'd give this a go.
The Horrific Sufferings (I'll refer to it by as the title is very long) is only like Perfume in the fact that it's so dark, other than that it is a totally original piece of writing.
I really enjoyed the thought and feeling that has gone into this book, you feel Hercule's pain and suffering but you can also feel other peoples fear of him.
Some of the book is quite gory and may make you wince but essentially this a classic tale of 'love conquers all'.
I did really enjoy the book, it's quite an adventurous tale, the only down point was that sometime I did feel that the author was rambling, sometimes he'd go off describing something and I'd forget what was actually happening with our hero at that time. I would recommend this book, especially those who are bored with most of the usual fiction that is churned out on mass these days, it's different and totally original.
On a stormy night in 1813, a doctor is called to the aid of two prostitutes in childbirth. To one is born a healthy girl, Henriette, to the other, what can only be described as a monster: a boy, Hercules, deaf-mute and hideously deformed, and with the power to read minds. This is a picaresque fable of the love that grows between Hercules and Henriette during their childhood, and which will entwine their fates for ever. Vallgren paints a cast of grotesques in a magical and atmospheric tour of nineteenth-century Europe: the swags and tails of the bordello, where Hercules is born; the phantasmagoria of the freak show, with which he travels; the sinister grandeur of the Jesuit monasteries, in which he finds both shelter and peril; the squalor of the asylum, where he finds only pain. "The Horrific Sufferings of the Mind-reading Monster Hercules Barefoot" tells of social oppression, official corruption and religious persecution, but is, at its heart, a marvellous love story. Moving, uplifting, at times dark and macabre, this novel stretches the bounds of imagination, presenting the bizarre as the everyday and leading you through it like a child, wide-eyed in wonder at a carnival. But though filled with curiosities, it is nevertheless a very human story of love, hate and raw emotion, and is the most extraordinary book you will read this year.