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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Hecate and Her Dogs

Paul Morand

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To purchase Hecate and Her Dogs

Title: Hecate and Her Dogs
Author: Paul Morand
Genre: Novel
Written: 1954 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 150 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Hecate and Her Dogs - US
Hecate and Her Dogs - UK
Hecate and Her Dogs - Canada
Hécate et ses chiens - Canada
Hécate et ses chiens - France
  • French title: Hécate et ses chiens
  • Translated by David Coward
  • With an Afterword by Umberto Pasti, translated by Shaun Whiteside
  • Hécate et ses chiens was made into a film in 1982, Hécate, directed by Daniel Schmid and starring Lauren Hutton

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Our Assessment:

B+ : clever, elliptical not-quite-erotica

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 10/10/2009 Nicholas Lezard
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Summer/2010 Jeff Waxman

  From the Reviews:
  • "It is exactly because we are not provided with the details that the book is so unnerving. In effect, it is anti-pornography. (...) I got it in the end: it's about collaboration. Seen through this filter, the book yields up something as interesting as its psycho-sexual nightmares. (...) It is as creepy when considered purely as being about sex as about anything else. But this is why it's worth buying even this very short book for £10. It sticks with you." - Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

  • "It is a rare work of art that can treat eroticism without lyricism, and perversity without lewdness. From form to style, subject to substance, Morandís book bears recommendation to nearly every reader." - Jeff Waxman, Review of Contemporary Fiction

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       In Hecate and Her Dogs the narrator, Spitzgartner, goes on a business trip to the North African city he lived in three decades earlier, and he recalls his time there.
       He was sent there in the 1920s; it was his first posting as a representative for an important French bank, the work only very occasionally demanding but still a position of some responsibility and importance.
       Spitzgartner describes his young self as:

by birth, temperament and education a Huguenot. Propriety, Decorum, Decency, these three Protestant spirits had attended me since I was in my cradle
       Needless to say, these were destined to fall by the wayside. He arrived with an exact schedule of what he wanted to accomplish, and in what timeframe -- right down to the mistress he felt he should acquire. He didn't go native, falling instead for Clotilde, a beautiful but married woman -- whose husband was, however, conveniently far, far away. They started an affair and pretty soon were more or less a couple -- secrets were hard to keep in this backwater place.
       Their affair involved lots of coupling -- but, despite going at it with complete (and prolonged) abandon, it proved oddly unsatisfactory. They went at it as hard and long as they could -- and eventually even reached a point where:
We had moved beyond the stage of satisfaction, even of satiety.
       But something drove Spitzgartner to push on. There was something about Clotilde he had to get to the root of -- and he thought sex was the route to that root. Unfortunately, he also got an inkling of what drove and moved her, and he didn't like what he suspected:
     Why can't we kill thoughts the way we kill people with guns ?
       He became certain:
     Three-personed Hecate, queen of the night, ate dogs for her sustenance; like the dread goddess, Clotilde ate puppies, I mean the children she made her fodder.
       Yes, Clotilde apparently had a thing for young kids -- "small bodies traded to satisfy her unholy desires" -- though Spitzgartner never quite caught her in any act, and was never quite sure of what precisely she got up to. His imagination, however, ran wild -- and then so did he, as he figured the only way to get to Clotilde was to go down the same beaten path:
I threw myself recklessly into the inescapable maelstrom of the passions with the same determination which others use to subdue them. I envied Clotilde, to whom wickedness came naturally, whereas I had to try very hard to outdo her by committing acts of unbelievable folly.
       True to his Protestant work-ethic, Spitzgartner devised: "an entire programme of misconduct for myself and followed it step by step". It was degeneracy run amok; needless to say, his work suffered. And Clotilde -- or the secret of Clotilde -- remained as elusive as ever, even as:
     I took the horns of my dilemma and shook them like the iron bars of a prison.
       Hecate and Her Dogs is hardly explicit, as all the sex -- and there is a lot of it -- is only implied or alluded to. Spitzgartner does expose himself entirely, baring his devastated soul, yet he hardly ever says more than, for example:
Every night I was vanquished by a bacchante who lived only for the moment when she had no one to please but herself.
     When our interlocked bodies finally untwined and I got out of bed, not only was I drained but my mental armour was shattered. Clotilde was lethal.
       The worst of it -- the child-abuse -- is presented almost entirely elliptically, with no admission of what exactly was perpetrated. And yet it still is gruesome and deeply unsettling: Hecate and Her Dogs is almost all style -- which, in turn, is entirely at odds with the underlying subject matter. It's brilliant and horrifying at the same time.
       With its short chapters -- there are sixty-seven of them, the shortest one reading in its entirety: "But I was beginning to need the disgust more and more." -- Hecate and Her Dogs is a rapid-fire descent into depravity, all the more effective because it is so artfully turned. It's a small, shocking novella -- that, as Umberto Pasti suggests in his Afterword, should probably have been called 'Hecate and her puppies' -- but despite the fundamental awfulness of its characters and premise is surprisingly ... agreeable.
       A nasty piece of work, but cleverly and well done.

- M.A.Orthofer, 24 September 2009

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Reviews: Hécate - the movie: Paul Morand: Other books by Paul Morand under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Paul Morand lived 1888 to 1976.

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