The Ogre

ISBN: 080185590X
ISBN 13: 9780801855900
By: Michel Tournier Barbara Bray

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About this book

An international bestseller and winner of the Prix Goncourt, France's most prestigious literary award, The Ogre is a masterful tale of innocence, perversion, and obsession. It follows the passage of strange, gentle Abel Tiffauges from submissive schoolboy to "ogre" of the Nazi school at the castle of Kaltenborn, taking us deeper into the dark heart of fascism than any novel since The Tin Drum. Until the very last page, when Abel meets his mystic fate in the collapsing ruins of the Third Reich, it shocks us, dazzles us, and above all holds us spellbound.

Reader's Thoughts


The English translation of the title "Le Roi des Aulnes" is somehow awkward. Nevertheless it is a Michel Tournier's brilliant account on the humanity through the eyes of one of the most curious characters in literature.

carl theaker

Saw the not well known flic 'The Ogre' with John Malchovich, which is basedon this book, which has inspirations from the Goethe poem 'The Erl-King'.The book is situated just before and during WWII, both are pretty good.Author Tournier appears to be a French Gunter Grass. He uses the protagonist,a simplistic Frenchman Tiffauges, to view the Reich in a sentimental fashion,allowing him to critique his own country (France) a bit.Tiffauges, a mechanic in Paris 1938, injures his hand so while taking some time off heuncharacteristically starts writing his life story with his left hand and is magicallysurprised to find he cannot only write with it, but better than with his right.He records all those tragedies that happen to a kid when in a boarding school,picked on etc. and you see how he obtains an understanding & somewhat obsessive loveof children. This is carried on with his life in Germany as an Erl-King of sorts.Published in 1970 it is definitely written in the tone of the anti-Vietnam war era.Excerpt: In reality our society has the justice it deserves: a justice appropriate to the cult of the assassin which literally blossoms at every street corner, on all the plaques setting forth for public admiration the names of the greatest warriors, or in other words of the most bloodthirsty professional killers in our history.A great tale ending in the heartbreaking invasion of Eastern Germany by theRussians (well maybe not if you're the Russians). Perhaps it's a signof a good book, but Tournier seems to wrap things up too quickly.

Jacob Wren

Michel Tournier writesThere’s probably nothing more moving in a man’s life than the accidental discovery of his own perversion.and:The very perfection of its functioning and the terrible energy that went into it were enough to exclude him forever, but he knew no machinery is safe from a piece of grit, and that fate was on his side.and:The moth flies on wings of love toward the electric light bulb. And when he gets there, close to it, as near as he can be to that which attracts him irresistibly, he doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t know what to do with it. For indeed what can a moth do with an electric lightbulb? .

Kobe Bryant

This book has a lot of symbolism and the protagonist has weird feelings towards children and animals and the ogres here are metaphorical and not the fantasy creatures

Pierre Fortier

Mon état d'âme ne s'y prêtait pas? Le sujet ne m'intéressait pas? La forme me laissait indifférent? Force est d'admettre que ce livre m'a profondément ennuyé et que j'ai dû arrêté au 2/3 du parcours avant de sombrer dans la lecture par obligation.

Jim Coughenour

The "ogre" of the title is Abel Tiffauges, a French mechanic who first appears a kind of autistic naif, strange rather than frightening in his obsessions (or perversions). It begins in France, 1938, in the years before Hitler's invasion — then as the war progresses, the setting moves eastward, into a winter-world of horror, and ultimately, transcendence — which I admit doesn't tell you much. It's an unusual, demanding novel; to my mind, a work of genius, unlike anything I've ever read, including the other great, equally odd novels of Tournier: Gemini; Friday; The Four Wise Men.Not a book for the weak-hearted.


Ik heb mijn tanden stukgebeten op De elzenkoning, maar ’t is uit. Het is uit! Ik ben er vanaf! Het was nog eens een Blufboek, want die lijst wordt maar niet korter, want onbewust of eigenlijk zeer bewust mijd ik de boeken, Literatuur met een grote L, van de lijst omdat ze stuk voor stuk moeilijk zijn.Weloverdacht in elkaar gevlochten schrijfsels zonder al te veel gevoel, zwaardere thema’s, te veel symboliek, ge moet uw hoofd erbij houden of ge struikelt over zinnen. Het is spartelen om in het verhaal te geraken én te blijven.Het hoofdpersonage vervulde me met weerzin: zoals hij kickte op kleine kinderen, dat was zum kotsen, het typische voorbeeld van een pedofiel die zelf niet inziet dat hij fout is, er hangt zoveel stilte tussen de alinea’s en hoofdstukken, er is zoveel plaats voor mijn verbeelding om op hol te slaan tussen de strak uitgelijnde gebeurtenissen, tja, dat beeld van hem viel niet meer recht te trekken. Toen de schrijver ook nog eens besloot de gruwel van Auschwitz in twee zinnen samen te vatten, had ik er genoeg van, maar aangezien ik toen op de laatste bladzijden zat - eindelijk! - ben ik blijven spartelen tot ik het boek kon dichtslaan en opzij leggen. Gooien, bijna.Het is dit soort boeken dat me naar de duistere diepten van de onder boekenwurmen zo gevreesde leesdip sleurt: het zuigt alle plezier uit de leeservaring, ik keek nog liever naar films dan een boek - eender hetwelk, maar zeker niet dit! - vast te pakken. Zo erg was het dus.En zo’n luie lezer ben ik geworden. Moeite doen om een boek te lezen, te begrijpen, tot me door te laten dringen - ik kan het schijnbaar niet meer opbrengen. Daarom durf ik het niet helemaal afschrijven. Zoals dikwijls bij ‘moeilijkere’ boeken ben ik bang dat ik me laat afschrikken door de stijve zinnen, door wat er niet wordt uitgesproken maar wat iedere ‘goeie’ lezer makkelijk van tussen de zinnen uit zou moeten kunnen oppikken. Misschien ben ik gewoon nog te jong voor sommige boeken. Zoals ik De avonden als negentienjarige absolute rommel vond, maar het negen jaar later met plezier verslond, moet ik De Elzenkoning op mijn vijfendertigste misschien nog eens opnieuw oppakken. Ik laat het alleszins in mijn boekenkast staan; want je weet maar nooit.

Marc L

A very special kind of book, there's no doubt about that. But I don't know what to feel about it. The first third is a mix of diary-excerpts, memories and reveries, especially about the youth of Abel Tiffauges, a crippled garageholder in Paris. It's difficult reading, but it's clear enough Tiffauges looks at reality in a very strange way, with special attention to young children (yes, indeed); he sees himself as "childbearer", and Saint Christopher his patron-saint; but a girlfriend refers to the 'oger'myth, a humanoid monster in fairy-tales that hunts children.Then the perspective changes: the Second World War starts and Tiffauges is prisoner of war in a camp in East-Prussia, deep in Germany. He is afforded a lot of freedom, becomes aide of Göring and eventually ends up in a castle-school of the Hitlerjugend. In the slipstream of nazi-rigor and cruelty he can develop his special "talents". It is here the link is made with the known poem of Goethe, the alder-king. I'm not going to reveal the end, but in the midst of the apocalyptic sceneries of the end of the Third Reich, Tiffauges comes to repent his sins. This part in Eastern Prussia is much easier to read, as an interisting developing story. But this also has a perverse side-effect: hunting red deers, the maniacally dissecting and analysing of racial and phyiscal characteristics of children, the atrocious training of the Hitlerjugend, ... at a certain point it becomes attractive. Add to this the beautiful depicting of the eastprussian landscapes (dark woods, lovely lakes and grand castles of the teutonic order), all very wagnerian and attractive. Tournier has had a lot of criticism for this, as though he wanted to make nazisme likeable. I don't agree, on the contrary; he has succeeded in exhibit the perverse in every human soul, and he clearly shows the excesses this can lead to. In short, there is a lot in this book to make it a beautiful, but shocking work, but in the end I can not say this was pleasant to read. So a very mixed and ambiguous judgment.


Very hard book to get into, and I found it difficult to feel anything for the hero, it's a good premise with the main character travelling around Germany Tec during WWII, as both a prisoner and working for various men in history, but nothing really seems to happen.

Rob Bliss

Beautiful and horrifying. Genius!


Dopada mi se kako su Svetlana i Franja Termacic preveli Turnijeov roman. Posebno je zanimljivo kako su resili nedoumicu oko naziva.U francuskom originalu, roman je nazvan "Le roi des aulnes", doslovno prevedeno - Kralj jovà.Posto su Termacici smatrali da takav naziv zvuci prilicno nespretno,odlucili su se za Kralja Vilovnjaka i tako ucinili jasnom aluziju na Geteovu pesmu koja se pominje u romanu.Dalje, "Le roi des aulnes" je francuski prevod pomenute Geteove pesme "Der Erlkönig".Aleksa Santic je pesmu nazvao Bauk.Rec bauk, koja je hipokoristik za medveda (Srpski mitoloski recnik) nije pak adekvatna skandinavsko-germanskom Erlkönigu.Naposletku, Danilo Kis je, na predlog Termacica, preveo pesmu, okrunivsi Kralja Vilovnjaka i ne izneverivsi Geteov duh.Kralj VilovnjakJ. V. GeteKo jaše kroz vetar ogrnut tminom?To je otac sa svojim sinom;Čvrsto dečaka stiska na grudi,Grli ga brižno, štiti ga od studi.Sine, zašto skrivaš lice iza šaka? –Zar ne vidiš, oče, Kralja-Vilovnjaka?Vilovnjaka sa plaštom i s krunom ko plamen? –To je, sine, samo magle pramen. –“Milo dete, kreni sa mnom i ne strepi!Igraću se s tobom igara lepih;Na sprudu šareno cveće cvati,Odežde od zlata ima moja mati.”Zar ne čuješ, oče, Vilovnjak me zove,Tiho obećava mnoge igre nove? –Smiri se, sine, spokojan budi:To kroz mrtvo lišće vetar bludi. –“Dečače, k meni korake usmeri,Lepo će te moje dočekati kćeri;Moje kćeri vode noćnu igru svoju,Tebe uljuljkuju, igraju ti, poju.”Oče, zar ne vidiš kćeri VilovnjakaOnamo u predelima mraka? –Vidim, sine, pogled me ne vara:Srebrnim sjajem svetli vrba stara. –“Volim te, zanet sam tvojim lepim stasom;Ne kreneš li milom, oteću te, časom.”Oče, oče, sad me zgrabio iz mraka!Boli me zagrljaj Kralja-Vilovnjaka!Oca prože jeza, pa jurnu još jače,A u naručju mu dete rida, plače;U dvorište s mukom i skršan ulete,A u zagrljaju već mu mrtvo dete.Roman opor.Prva glava je pisana u prvom licu (Zlokobni Zapisi Abela Tifoza), kasnija poglavlja vodi pero sveznajuceg pripovedaca da bi se, povremeno, opet uplele lucidne i opskurne stranice Zlokobnih Zapisa.Fina recenica, krhka, veoma lepo izvajana. Cesto veoma duboka, mudra uz opulentni zacin tifozevskog cinizma.Upravo taj tifozevski cinizam ovo delo cini posebnim!U Tifozu slutim tamu, gustu i grimiznu, kao kada se kroz zdenac meka predvecerja sluti kisa koja tinja i pucketa nad zemljom.U ovom romanu ima necega duboko potresnog. Iskonskog.Svakako neceg dragog a izgubljenog.Kao kada se pod cipkom na klaviru cuva talir il' pero, nekakav spomen, celov na rubu maramice.Uplitanje rata (Drugi svetski rat) unosi teskobu medju redove.Bol koja ogrce svet dok gorko mirise paralizovana misao, to usahlo meso.Tifoz, s pocetka introvertan, u trenu kada dobija golubove na cuvanje, razodeva posvecenost, neznost, ljubav cak!Vrlo je lepa gradacija zivotinja koje simbolisu Tifozev emotivni pomak. Golub - jelen - konj.Traziti oprost u urusenoj kapeli secanja, sanjati trgovce golubijim perjem koji sapucu da svet nije izgubljen od Empatije.

Jem Wilton

Worst book for a long time..the one revelation - that we all like to look or experience something horrible now and again... well, surprise, surprise...!!! The rest was boring, but stupidly, I read it front to back.

Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

This earned a star from me for the research and inventive musings the author had obviously done to do pedantic exhibitions about:1. monsters;2. the Aristotelian concept of "potency" (which he managed to tie up with the sexual act);3. the two types of women, the "woman-trinket" (one who can be manipulated by men) and the "woman-landscape" ( one whom a man can only visit);4. benign inversion (evil becoming good, sort of) and the malign inversion (the reverse);5. euphoria, phoria ("to carry"), phoric, phore, anthropophoric (the pricipal protagonist, Abel Tiffauges, likes to carry sick, young boys in his arms, experiencing euphoria in the process);6. atmospheric saturation, e.g., when an atmosphere is saturated with beauty one feels an intoxication that has a distant affinity with phoric ecstasy (like, again, holding a wounded child in one's arms);7. photography as the raising of an object to "imaginary power";8. developing photo films as involving the inverse and reversible worlds;9. the French Penal Code;10. the use of pigeons during war, the different kinds of such pigeons;11. the peat-bog men (carcasses of long dead men preserved in peat bogs);12. Nazi hunting lodges, their games, animal droppings;13. the different ways of measuring stags' antlers;14. the dynamics of horses;15. the origins of great East Prussian families traced way back to the Teutonic Knights;16. human twins;17. human hair;18. symbols in war; and 19. different positions of boys while asleep.I also gave it another star because although I already "knew" the overall complexion of the story and its probable trajectory (what with its dead giveaways : the "ogre" title, its first 1/3 part consisting of Tiffauges's "sinister diary", his huge body and the smallness of his penis, his obvious megalomania and pedophiliac tendencies, the war era, France and later Germany as settings) it turned out differently and quite beyond my expectations.Apart from these, however, I felt this was just a piece of crap. Yes, I've read the other reviews, and saw its high GR ratings. But what can I possibly do when, after finishing it, I felt that the author had just taken a dump inside my brain?


I'm really curious to read the recent translation of this book (this version was published way back in 84). I found the story and character intriguing but the language the translator used put me to sleep sometimes.

Danielle Tremblay

Ce roman a pour thème la pédérastie, mais comme toute œuvre de Michel Tournier, tout est en symboles et en métaphores. Aucune société ne s'est réellement souciée d'analyser et d'établir la nature profonde de la pédérastie. Michel Tournier a pris la place de la société démissionnaire en analysant avec son habituelle finesse et sa sensibilité, cette nature particulière. Il lui a même donné un sens et un rôle : la phorie.(view spoiler)[Abel Tiffauges, le personnage principal, raconte son enfance, sa vie au pensionnat Saint Christophe de Beauvais. Il y rencontrera Nestor qui prendra cet enfant malingre et maltraité par ses camarades sous son aile, son ami décèdera dans l'incendie du collège. Abel devient mécanicien, photographe amateur.En 1939, arrêté pour viol, emprisonné, il évite la Cour d'Assises, l'armée a besoin d'hommes, il est envoyé en Alsace. Il sera colombophile.Prisonnier de guerre, on l'enverra en Prusse Orientale, après un passage au camp de Moorhof, il se retrouvera au domaine de chasse de Goering qu'il appellera l'Ogre de Rominten.1943, la Mazurie, dans une forteresse école militaire du IIIe Reich, le soldat français se germanise. C'est lui l'ogre, l'Ogre de Kaltenborn, recruteur d'enfants destinés à mourir face aux soviétiques.Il sauvera Ephraïm, petit garçon juif, en s'enfuyant avec lui dans les marécages. (hide spoiler)]Le titre de ce roman est tiré d'un poème de Goethe : Der Erlkönig Le Roi des Aulnes. Ce poème commence ainsi :« Qui chevauche si tard dans la nuit et le vent ?C'est le père avec son enfantIl serre le jeune garçon dans ses brasIl le tient au chaud, il le protège ».Ce poème a aussi inspiré un compositeur : Le Roi des Aulnes de Schubert en 1821 ( poème aborde la symbolique de l'homme portant un enfant, symbolique omniprésente chez Abel depuis le pensionnat portant le nom d'un saint représenté avec un enfant sur son dos (Saint Christophe) jusqu'à sa mort en portant Ephraïm.Œuvre de Jusepe de RiberaAbel est un personnage complexe, obsédé mais cherchant à se maîtriser, il ne touche pas les enfants, mais se repait de l'odeur de leurs cheveux dont les mèches garnissent son oreiller.Il exprime ainsi son ambition :« Il ne me sied pas de nouer des relations individuelles avec tel ou tel enfant. Ces relations, quelles seraient-elles au demeurant ? Je pense qu'elles emprunteraient fatalement les voies faciles et toutes tracées soit de la paternité soit du sexe. Ma vocation est plus haute et plus générale. »Il crée le concept de "phorie" et son expérience lui fait décliner ce concept : le cerf est nommé l'ange phallophore, le cheval est l'animal phorique par excellence, la superphorie correspond au cavalier portant un enfant et l'officier SS marchant sur les enfants allongés accomplit un acte antiphorique par excellence.Le destin d'Abel n'est fait que de signes qui lui permettent de deviner la chute du IIIe Reich. C'est un monde sombre dans lequel nous entraîne Abel.Accaparé par la lecture des signes qui éclairent son destin, grisé par son pouvoir croissant à Kaltenborn, Abel perçoit lors de la chute de l'Allemagne nazie que l'idéologie nazie est le reflet inversé des valeurs auxquelles il croit, la pureté recherchée étant l'inversion maligne de l'innocence.Sa prémonition au sujet de cette chute trouve sa réalisation dans sa mort : portant un enfant juif échappé d'un camp, Abel s'enfonce dans la vase d'un marécage jusqu'à la mort. L'enfant portant une étoile jaune, Abel parle d'astrophorie.Le Roi des aulnes a obtenu le prix Goncourt en 1970. De mon point de vue, il méritait totalement ce prix prestigieux car c’est peut-être le roman le plus réussi de cet auteur.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

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