Monday, August 22, 2016

PAUL HALTER : La Nuit du loup. Introduction to the anthology and analysis of the story that inspired the title: La Nuit du loup.

I want point  that because I will thrash out its contents, I will give the story solution:  whereby those who have not read it yet, please do not read this analysis.

 "Reader Beware: SPOILERS"

In 2000, at the dawn of the new millennium, Paul Halter wanted to bring together a series of short stories he had written in previous years in a collection, which he called La Nuit du Loup. Later, in 2006 was published also an edition in English - entrusted to the John Pugmire that two years earlier  had translated the works - which, however, was noticed to be different from the original. In fact, while collecting La Nuit du Loup had 9 stories, instead THE NIGHT OF THE WOLF  contained 10.
Going to see well, however, you  notice not only the obvious presence of a story in most, but also the addition and replacement of others. In fact, the story Un Rendez-vous aussi saugrenu for the untranslatability into English of the used form of French that did not fit to be otherwise translated without losing the characteristics on which it was based , was replaced in the edition in English, by the story  L’Abominable bonhomme de neige (The Abominable Snowman), while to it even was added another, Le Spectre doré (The Golden Ghost).
One should not think, however, that the stories were kept in a drawer and then published for the first time on the occasion of the publication of the anthology; several of them had been translated into other languages: 2 (The Tunnel of Death and The Night of the Wolf) had appeared between 2005 and 2006 on EQMM, with John Pugmire translation, while that of Peter Schulhman had appeared in 2004 always on EQMM, The Appel of Lorelei; in addition 5 short stories  had been translated  by Titian Agnelli and published in Italy on"Il Foglio Giallo", the publication of “Il Club del Giallo”, an association ( extinct a decade ago) that twenty years ago still brought many fans and to which also belonged Paul Halter as an honorary member: Ripperomanie and  L'appel de la Lorelei in 1999, La nuit du loup, Les Morts dansent la nuit and La Hache in 2000. Why were these stories chosen?
Paul, consulted by me  several months ago, explained it in two short lines, whether it was by chance he preferred that story among all other of the anthology to give a title to his anthology:
«Cher Paul, depuis quelques années, je dois votre collection La nuit du loup, mais je ne l'avais jamais lu seulement l'histoire qui a donné son nom à la collection (comme je l'avais lu quelques-uns des autres). Je suis restée muette. Nous sommes face à un chef-d'œuvre, avec trois fins différentes, chacune plus étonnant que les autres. Je me suis senti la même forme d'aliénation je me suis senti à lire La quatrième porte. Vous avez appelé la collection La nuit du loup,  idéalement lacer l'histoire éponyme, je pense. Je dois penser que vous considéré comme le meilleur des neuf ? »
«Oui, Pietro, vous avez raison !Enfin oui et non...J'ai bien aimé cette histoire de loup, avec une chute un peu fantastique... La meilleure? Je ne sais pas... Peut-être ex-æquo avec La HACHE, LA LORELEI et LES MORTS DANSENT LA NUIT. Mais d'aussi loin que je m'en souvienne, j'ai dû emprunter son nom pour le recueil de nouvelles, sans doute par ce que c'est celui qui me plaisait le plus. »
For those unfamiliar with the French, Paul essentially says the stories he remembers with more pleasure among all stories of that anthology were La Hache, LA LORELEI et LES MORTS DANSENT LA NUIT, and that I have reason to think that in essence, having been named the anthology with the same title of a story, exactly that story was undoubtedly his favorite.
This judgment, own by the author, takes out all the arbitrary ratings, appeared on various sites, according to which, one more than another or another, were the best. I personally in addition to La nuit du loup which is an absolute masterpiece, equal to some story of the most inspirational Carr (The Door to Doom, for example) I think another very good is Les morts dansent la nuit, which is reminiscent of the atmosphere ( a crypt containing the family tombs) The Burning Court or
The Sleeping Sphinx by Carr or even La chambre du fou by  Halter, but it is an entirely subjective judgment.
Here the contents of the first edition:
L’Escalier assassin
Les Morts dansent la nuit
Un Rendez-vous aussi saugrenu
L’Appel de la Lorelei
La Marchande de fleurs
La Hache
Meurtre à Cognac
La Nuit du loup
And here's the English edition, in which the original index was changed:
The Abominable Snowman
The Dead Dance at Night
The Call of the Lorelei
The Golden Ghost
The Tunnel of Death
The Cleaver
The Flower Girl
Murder in Cognac
The Night of the Wolf
What kind of stories are presented?
Obviously Locked Rooms and Crimes Impossible, although there is also some story  who escapes this classification posing itself like a freer story.
If we are going to analyze them quickly, accumulating all the stories, both by  the French edition and by the English edition, we can try a quick classification:
Classic Locked Room

La Marchande de fleurs (appearance of Christmas gifts in a sealed room)
Murder in Cognac
(poisoning at the top floor, closed inside, of a tower)
Les Morts dansent la nuit
(Classic Locked Room: crypt sealed from which horrible laughs come)

Variation of Locked Room on the snow

La Nuit du loup
L'Appel de la Lorelei
The Abominable bonhomme de neige
Le Spectre doré

Impossible Murder

L'Escalier assassin (a crime accrued on a sliding scale, about half of the same, given that neither from the right nor from the left was someone who could kill)

Several examples of police deduction

Un Rendez-vous aussi saugrenu
La Hache
Certainly it’s not sufficient an article to describe and to analyze all the Halter’s stories, so I will say only that the protagonists are different: Owen Burns, who is located in stories of the past, is a character modeled after Oscar Wilde, who even in Italy is not known because none of the five novels in which he is, was published. At that time, however, only two they had been, however, already quite sufficient to assure him fame: Le roi du désordre (1994)
and Les sept merveilles du crime (1997);
Alan Twist is living adventures dating back to the 30s-40s. However you note that both Burns and Twist  in these stories are not accompanied by their shoulders: Stock and Hurst.

Despite the presence of the two characters, none of them appear in the best story ever, I do not hesitate to call a masterpiece. If there is a perfect story in Halter, no doubt, in my opinion, it is La nuit du loup.
The story begins with a father who is scolding his little children to not even know how to hunt all alone. And while his companions are intent to divide a deer, his little implore the father to tell a story. And so the old man, though reluctantly, tells the story of Pierre Loup, a friend of his and of his death in impossible circumstances.
Pierre Loup was a man who lived in a wooden house, equipped with laboratory, in the middle of a clearing in the wood. In the nearby village of Malmont, who in Lorraine is at the foot of the Vosges Mountains, close around a church, under a blanket of snow that seemed to protect it from the outside, they spoke softly praying that the werewolf, who had killed twenty  years earlier, didn’t  return to claim victims.
Loup was disliked by the local community because since many years one of his favorite sports was to establish extramarital affairs with many women in the country, so that he had become unpopular and he lived in a house in the woods in the middle of a clearing, together with a dog; his only friends were the Commissioner Mercier and the widower Dr. Loiseau.
During a night it happens that to the door of the Commissioner Jean Roux knocks a small man, so old that age was not definable, dressed in well-made clothes, but covered by snow that asks him to take shelter by the blizzard, on that night. At first, the Commissioner can not decide: but even if he doesn’t  explain for which cause in a snowy night like that, one man is still around, his conditions reassure him. And so, after having refreshed and heated, while the one having in the hands a thick grog, fixes a big dog wolf sleeping on a mat, tells him the impossible story  to explain of the assassination of Pierre Loup: two days before , his former superior Commissioner Mercier had heard barking in the night; a few hours later, Dr. Loiseau, he had woken up because he was worried that from the area where  lived Pierre Loup had heard screaming and shouting in the night.
So in the light of a lantern they had penetrated into the wood, despite Loiseau walked lame (with the stick) because his dog had bitten his ankle, and here, in a clearing all cloaked of snow, they found the door of the cottage of old Pierre, wide open: from the path where they were, to the house, were visible imprints of animal, probably of a wolf. Only those. In the house they found the horribly disfigured corpse of Pierre, as if claws and fangs had torn him, with a dagger driven into his back.
Commissioner Roux indicates to Dieudonne a  wolf dog sleeping  and suggests it could be responsible of the master’s death if the master was just torn to pieces,  but he was also stabbed and so, even if  the dog had been to tear him to pieces, then who had stabbed him should have left footprints, which instead were not found.
In the snow nothing in addition to their footprints to the house, the prints of a large dog or wolf, and of course the holes produced by the stick whom Dr. Loiseau had used. Nothing else.
The inspection by the police, called by Mercier and commanded by Roux, had not had anything news, except of course that the victim despite having been overwhelmed by an animal, had been stabbed. So unless you find yourself with some animal that could  hold a knife and  had got the animal's feet, it was impossible to attribute to others the paternity of ruthlessness. But wherever you go he could not draw a spider from a hole: who did kill Loup and why? Was a werewolf or not?
The old man hosted by Mercier, named Noel Dieudonne, upon hearing the story, says he believes "that there is an explanation for everything." Roux is incredulous: he had been awakened by Loiseau, and he had found the victim watched over by Mercier, who had confirmed the history of Loiseau: he not even an hour before was been woken up by Loiseau asking him if he had heard screams coming from the house of Loup. And together they found the victim in a state creepy, the same in which the Loiseau wife was found twenty years before. Also he learns that a few days before, had spread news about the possible presence of a werewolf
And since before the murder of the doctor's wife, the little Henri, who had since become so young handsome and strong but also having the brain of a child, had been bitten – they  said "by a werewolf" - now someone had attributed to him the yellings, shoutings and growlings in the wood. In particular at a dinner to which Henri had attended together with Pierre, Mercier and Loiseau, the latter two had advanced hypothesis that the young become a full-moon nights "a werewolf." Loup had been affected by this, but a few days later from fangs and claws he had been almost torn to pieces.
Subsequent investigations had established that Loup, incorrigible womanizer, had female victims in the community, and that probably Henri was his son, given the bequest that Loup had left  his death, to him. Of the three, he would be the only one to benefit from the death of Loup. However Dieudonne thinks otherwise: he questions , whether there are other clues, details of no importance that had not been narrated. So thus he comes to know that in the Loup carpentry workshop, had been found among the cobwebs and dust,  fresh wood shavings, a sign that something had been worked. What?
Dieudonne collect clues and announces that he has understood who the murderer might be: it may be that the Commissioner Roux who is puzzling for two days did not understand who might be the murderer, and Dieudonne has understood that?
And he reveals that among three possible suspected men (Mercier, Loiseau, Henri) the only possible culprit could only be Loiseau: but how did he do, for the most lame not to leave fingerprints? And why  would he kill him? Because in the night of the dinner, Loup had exposed himself too much,  indignantly because was been suspected his “stupid” son to be a werewolf, and he had promised to the two he would revealed the name of the killer who had killed twenty years earlier: the doctor, in order to marry a young woman, and to delete the old woman).
Here is the solution proposed by Dieudionne: since during the assassination night it had snowed and then the snowfall had stopped, the doctor had arrived at Loup home in the evening and there he had killed him with a knife, then savagely wounding the face and arms of the victim with a kind rake with which he had already twenty years earlier  simulated the toring of his wife by a dog or werewolf supposed such. So in the carpentry workshop attached to the house, he took the time to pack the very short stilts fixing the soles of shoes and he realized them so they reproduced the final part of his stick. So presumably walking one step after another, as if he was walking on a rope, he went away from the house leaving only footprints in the snow that would be seemed like those of a stick, when it returned later to the scene, would  put his stick in the holes left before in the snow.
To simulate the footsteps of a big dog, he  let his dog to run at breakneck speed and barking in the night: were its barking and the growls that were heard in the night. Then he went to wake his friend Commissioner Mercier  and together went Loup’s home and he, going towards the house, showing to the incredulous Commissioner the footsteps of his dog  he had attached to a werewolf, did  as he had provided, putting the tip of his walking stick into the holes made by the stilts. Dieudionne, inevitably draws the same reasoning that  every reader who reads the story, draws: which do you talk about? Which are the subjects of the drama?
Only three people were so intimate with Loup, who had barred the friendship of the country by virtue of his disrespectful attendance of other people's wives. His friends: Commissioner Mercier, Dr. Loiseau, and his idiot son Henri for which Loup feeds a deep love and also the will to defend him from those who try to attack him.
Commissioner Roux does not believe to his eyes: in a short time, that man rained from heaven, had solved the problem that had not let him sleep for two days.
So the story - told by  the father to his sons - ends, while the rest of the comrades are still eating the flesh of deer.
At this point the father reveals to his sons that the story was too absurd, too built to be the real one: in fact there was a story much simpler: namely,  the wolf Loup’s  friend  had turned against him when at light of the full moon had really turned into a werewolf. That is, here we have the second subversion, after the first explaining : the man is not who becomes a wolf, but the wolf that becomes a man. A reality too horrible for the one who tells the story: what's so horrible? The fact that a wolf, which is an animal that hunts for food, can transform itself into a human being. And at this point there is the third shock for the reader: who told the story, was  a wolf, which told to the sons the story of a friend of the wolves called Loup, who had called his wolf with his name.
So acquires explanation the dialogue that shortly before  concluded the story and the explanation of the problem: “Wolf,” murmured Roux, “like his deceased master. I never understood why he called him by his own name”.“There’s always an explanation for everything, my dear sir…”(answers Dieudonne).
Basically the story unfolds its action on several levels: in essence, if the QUATRIEME doors is a story within a story (we read a story and then halfway through the book, we realize that in turn was a story that someone was writing), and it has only two levels on which it moves, La nuit du loup, has varied levels.
First we read about a group of individuals who have hunted a deer and are now preparing to rest after the meal: nothing can make us think they are not men. However Halter disseminates clues, ways to use the terms that could apply to men, but originally indicate the animals. I highlight into the dialogue these revealing:
“Daddy, Daddy, tell us a story.”
The chieftain looked at the little group that was devouring with gusto the deer that had been killed a few hours before. He pricked up his ears and glanced in exasperation at his son.
“Yes, Daddy, please,” insisted another of his children.
“Another one?” he growled. “You’d do better to occupy yourselves with more important things! You’re old enough to hunt now. The winter’s been hard and spring is still a long way off. How many times do I have to tell you that to live you have to eat, and to eat you have—”
“Yes, we know, but please, Daddy, please tell—”
“Now you’re bothering me! I don’t know what else to tell!”
His companion trotted through the snow to rub herself against him: “You can tell them the story of Wolf.”
(translation from French by John Pugmire).
Was devouring, he pricked up, he growled, you that to live you have to eat, trotted are all expressions which at that moment the reader doesn’t give credit, but of which then remembers and re-evaluates upon the revelation of the end of the story, when he realizes that to tell it was a wolf: he spoke about a his friend who had been killed, Loup, who had in turn called his dog like him. So far comes the tale. But Dieudonne invites him to go to the bottom of things: why Loup would have called his dog like him? Because both shared the same nature? Loup as man he was transformed into a wolf, and in turn was the wolf transformed into a man?
Essentially then the reader improvises detective when he finds the clues  Halter has disseminated in the tale because the reader can come to understand (but he can not) it was a story within a story, in which who read it was different from those you believed that it was.
Also La Quatrieme Porte is a story within a story, as  La tabla de Flandes by  Perez Reverte.
But then there are other levels on which the story moves.
Who is Dieudonne? He’s the deus ex machina of the story, and his name means  "God who gives". What? The solution? He invites  to look into things, because everything can be watched not necessarily from a single perspective.
Let's say Loup and his loup shared a common nature: as Loup had made the sad story of being an unrepentant womanizer, there is no reason not to think that really could be Loiseau's wife was killed from a werewolf, that from Loup transformed in a beast, when she had met with him to have a carnal relationship.
In essence it is as if the same facts justified a different solution when was contemplated a fantastic compromise: a bit as the double solution of The Burning Court.

If we should believe the rational solution, the culprit has to be only Loiseau;
but if we give credence to the fantasy story, also the solution it becomes.

And why should we not think that if Loup is really a werewolf, can not really be this thing his son, whom had been indicated so from Mercier and Loiseau?
Dieudonne could  want to protect the son "handicapped" by Loup: a great big son with a brutal force, but with the brain of a child. We suppose  the child had discovered who had killed her mother many years before and had conceived a plan to revenge his mother, killing  who had killed really her (his father, Loup) and blaming that man who had betrayed her (Loiseau): also so the thing would make sense. To put it succinctly: if history is processed in a real universe, it may have only one development, impossible as it may seem at first; if it is processed in a fantasy universe, the solutions can be varied.
That's because I speak of a true masterpiece.
I notice  also that Halter could have thought to use the solution of this tale for a following novel  perhaps varying it in something: in fact, how could we not remember the solution into A 139 pas de la mort ?

Even there we have a variation of Locked Room and the solution directly relates to the solution of La nuit du loup: in fact, the 2 wooden rafters long  1 meter  in which are fixed four large nails, short in length, leverage the same solution used here: very low stilts that in the story have to confuse the tracks so that you think the tracks are made by the doctor's stick tip, and at the same time support the weight of man without any chance to fall to the right or left).
In short, everything and the opposite of everything in the universe by Paul Halter.

Pietro De Palma