Horrific Sufferings of the Mind-Reading Monster Hercules Barefoot: His Wonderful Love and His Terrible Hatred


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About this book

Horrific Sufferings of the Mind-Reading Monster Hercules Barefoot is the picaresque fable of the love that grows between the mute, telepathic human monstrosity Hercules and the beautiful Henriette—a love that will entwine their fates forever. Author Carl-Johan Vallgren creates an unforgettable cast of grotesqueries in a magical and atmospheric tour of nineteenth-century Europe—from the bordello, where Hercules is born, to the squalor of the asylum, where he finds only pain, to the sinister grandeur of the Jesuit monasteries in which he finds both shelter and peril, to the phantasmagoria of the freak show with which he travels. A moving, uplifting, at times dark and macabre tale of social oppression, official corruption, religious persecution, and unwavering devotion, it is a story that enchants and surprises . . . and leaves one wide-eyed with wonder, like a small child at his first carnival.

Reader's Thoughts

Petter Wolff

No. I can't stand the use, on every second page, of a deus ex machina (based on the main character's otherworldly skills) to move the story. It strikes me as lazy and the otherwise colorful language and seemingly historical accuracy becomes only surface-deep. I also did not like The Perfume which reads a lot in the same manner.


Boken var bra, men aldrig så bra att den gav mig någon speciell, kvarvarande läsupplevelse. Även om Vallgren jobbar hårt med beskrivningar av karaktären tycker jag inte att jag lär känna denne tillräckligt för att ge huvudpersonen den sympati han förtjänar. Det blir lite krystat och ganska pretto ibland och de "fantastiska" kärleksbeskrivningarna som finns är klyschiga. Ändå får boken en trea för den hade trots allt en fin berättelse och handlade om något spännande och ovanligt. Läs den, för all del!


Türkçe'ye "Bir Garip Aşk Öyküsü" adıyla çevrildi. Metis Yayınevi tarafından yayınlandı. Az bilinen güzel kitaplardan.

John Hatley

A truly amazing book, horrifying at times, but a truly astonishing love story.


A quick read. Felt like it could have been more. At times it emulates those classics where the hero overcomes all odds. But I think the author really wanted it to be a revenge novel, and spends essentially the last third of the book rather gruesomely detailing the reprisals of the main character. The author, as if fearful that this might be a little too graphic, steps back a little from the action at this point, putting blocks in the trail, like resorting to newspaper excerpts to tell parts of the story. Unfortunately, this tends to bog down the story, and just when it should have been speeding to a conclusion, the last third of the book really slows down and I found myself loosing interest. There were other quirks in the writing along the way, though I tried to ignore those, putting them down as loses in the translation. Some genuinely interesting historical bits, and thoughts on the nature of deformity. Not upset that I read it, but wouldn't recommend it to anyone, either.

Neetha Philip

This book takes the reader on a roller coaster ride of emotions. While the book captures the essence of Hercules' character it also leaves the reader with a sense of pessimistic optimism. Hercules, the mind reading monster, gets the only thing he wanted--love, from the only person he wanted it from--Henrietta. However, circumstances lead Hercules on a search for revenge. This book is truly heart-breaking. One finds oneself filled with self-disgust. It brings out the fact that humanity is so unsatisfied, that one desire quenched, will only lead to another unquenched.

Erica Gramming

Så vacker!!!


I really wanted to like this book. But after Henriette died I just wanted to close it and forget I ever read it. I finished it though, not really worth it. Hercules Barefoot loves Henriette with a love that defies even death, yet when she calls from her grave, and stops him from killing the guy that killed her, he moves to USA and have kids with two different women, by cheating on one of them. He leaves them both, has no contact with his first daughter and is gone five years to search for gold. Because why the hell not. Later it is considered that he felt like these women, who he made pregnant, where smothering him by wanting monogamous relationships. At this point he just sounds like a big douche that "needs his freedom" or whatever.We are told next to nothing about Henriette's cruel fate or her feelings. She is just an empty beautiful shell that is literally a vessel for his mind, entering hers, all the time. Shame, cause I liked the premise of the book and it started out nicely, exploring the life at the brothel, the love and mind readings of Hercules.I just would like to know more about how Henriette felt and less about Hercules mad jealousy. I find it very hard to sympathize with him.


"El doctor quedó sorprendido ante la ira que denotaba su propia voz, una ira que se había alimentado del hecho de que uno siempre llegaba tarde a las citas más importantes de la propia existencia, de que la vida, de una forma consciente, siempre retrasaba las invitaciones a los momentos decisivos en el destino de las personas"


This was a pretty weird book. Not bad weird, but it was definitely not what I was expecting. Much like Life of Pi, it was extremely gory in parts, which seemed unnecessary but definitely added to the whole idea of the intensity of the main character's hatred. It reminded me a little of The Count of Monte Cristo...it's a book about revenge and forgiveness. It also reminded me of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (though I'm going off the Disney movie since I've never read the book). The main female character in this book, Henriette, doesn't see Hercule the way everyone else sees him. He is deformed but she only sees the beauty of his soul and she loves him unconditionally for it.


This is a page turner, for sure. I couldn't really quit once I'd gotten a chapter or two into it. It reminded me of another carnivalesque "freak" novel, Geek Love. But I liked this one a lot better than Geek Love. Despite the fact that this novel sometimes seems to be "a series of unfortunate events" it has an underlying optimism and love for its characters that keep it from getting too bleak. And it does get bleak, yes indeedy do. Dickensian bleak without the Dickensian filter shielding us from the truly bleak stuff. But there's love under it somehow. And mind reading. Which is fun. I really enjoyed the perspective switches and the detective work of piecing the story together that way. The bad news? The frame of the story feels kind of lame. The opening and closing letters are a bit ponderous and feel tacked on and unessential. The ending feels lazy. It sort of amounts to "and this happened and then this happened and then this happened." This was because the love/hate story was essentially over. But then it wasn't. I either wanted the story to end where it ended or to be more fully fleshed out after. It feels more undone than too long, really so I vote for more flushed out!There seems to be a potential for another book written by the main character and I wondered if that book will come out in the future. However, I wanted that book IN this one. There's so much potential in this story that isn't realized. It feels sketched in when it could be painted. But the sketch is a really interesting sketch, so it's worth it even so.


En av de mer henrivende bøker jeg har lest. Vanskelig å legge fra seg. Vanskelig å glemme.

Callie S.

Chi ama le saghe e il grottesco alla Süskind, potrebbe trovare in queste pagine un completo appagamento del proprio gusto. Vicino al Profumo nell'ambientazione e nel clima narrativo, Storia di un amore straordinario è la cronaca di una passione che supera la stessa deformità, e di un dono sovrannaturale che diviene lo strumento di una spietata vendetta. Notturno, barocco in certune sue descrizioni, appassionato nelle digressioni, è quel che a buon diritto potrebbe qualificarsi come romanzo fiammingo, tanto porta in sé il crisma di un intero clima culturale. Caratterizzata da un incalzante ritmo narrativo, è tuttavia un'opera che perde senz'altro nel confronto con il capolavoro prima citato, fosse anche perché i personaggi non eguagliano altrettanto spessore e lo sviluppo della trama, a partire dalla sua parte centrale, accusa una certa meccanicità nel succedersi degli eventi (nonché qualche banale aggiustamento funzionale alla chiusa). Chi sa tuttavia apprezzare quelle storie drammatiche e nere in cui crimine e passione si intrecciano, troverà una trama articolata e godibile.


Det är inte bara hans kärlek som är vidunderlig – utan också han själv, Hercule Barfuss. Alltsedan han föddes på ett glädjehus i Königsberg 1813 har han väckt människors fasa med sin vanställdhet. Han är också döv, och dvärg, men han har fått en sällsynt gåva – förmågan att läsa andras tankar. Den kommer att skänka honom ett våldsamt och märkligt öde, och farliga fiender.Den här boken diskuterade vi under andra bokcirkelträffen. Jag gillade den första början av boken, men tappade sedan intresset när Hercule beger sig ut för att hämnas sin älskade. I det läget borde boken ha döpts om till "Den vidunderliga hämndens historia". Tre av oss i bokcirkeln tyckte inte alls om boken och en älskade den. Framförallt störde vi oss på språket där författaren bitvis gått till överdrift i sina beskrivningar av personer, miljö och dylikt.Vissa scener har etsat sig fast på näthinnan t.ex. scenen där björnen blir torterad eller när katten gör entré. Jag har svårt att se varför författaren fick Augustpriset, jag anar att det annorlunda språket spelade in.

Joseph Sverker

Nja, säger jag om den här boken. Nu bodde jag utomlands när den kom ut, men som jag förstår det blev det något utav en hype kring den här boken, me jag kan inte förstå i vad den skulle bottna. Visst är den en bra infallsvinkel och medryckande historia, men att den skulle vara något speciellt är jag frågande till. För det första tycker jag att Vallgrens språk känns rätt fattigt, använder man ""ödesmättat"" två gånger på ett uppslag utan att verka vara medveten om det så stör det mig i mitt intryck. Det finns flera sådana upprepeningar och favoritord som känns att de grundar sig i synonymfattigdom snarare än medvetet val. Sedan tycker jag att vändningen i boken är i det närmsta banal. Jag förstår inte hur den skulle kunna upplevas som annat än så, det kommer så opåkallat och får inte riktigt någon förklaring upplever jag. Men visst kan boken läsas och någon behållning finns det där, men förvänta er inte några djupare insikter gällande vidunderlig kärlek.

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