Novelist attacked by own characters

23rd June 2007, Comments 0 comments

AURILLAC, France, June 23, 2007 (AFP) - Five farmers from a tiny hamlet in central France stood trial this week on charges of violently attacking a writer they accuse of revealing their family secrets to the world in a tell-all novel.

AURILLAC, France, June 23, 2007 (AFP) - Five farmers from a tiny hamlet in central France stood trial this week on charges of violently attacking a writer they accuse of revealing their family secrets to the world in a tell-all novel.

Pierre Jourde says his 2003 novel "Pays Perdu" (Lost Country) was an attempt to get under the skin of Lussaud, a village of 20 souls nestled in the green hills of the Cantal region, where his family roots go back three centuries and where he has spent every summer since childhood.

He wanted to explain his late father's love, and his own seemingly irrational bond to a place where, in the words of the novel, "You can only arrive by accident. There is nothing to do, nothing to see".

But to tell the story of Lussaud's stone houses and sleepy farms, where chickens scratch around in courtyards and cats doze in the shade, Jourde also went digging on the darker side of village life -- dragging out stories of adultery, suicide and alcoholism.

"Rare are the homes where alcohol does not have its victims, its slaves," reads one passage of the book.

Names and dates have been changed, but the two dozen residents of Lussaud -- Jourde's friends and neighbours, whose family stories are intertwined with his own -- easily recognised themselves and their kin.

In July 2005, when Jourdes arrived with his wife and three children for their annual summer stay, they were immediately encircled by six or seven of his neighbours, hurt and angry at what they had heard.

Quickly the scene turned nasty.

Panicking, Jourdes says he punched one man to make him back away, sparking a volley of blows as well as racist insults against Jourde's children, who are of mixed race.

The writer's 15-month-old baby was hurt by flying glass in the face when stones shattered his car windows. Another of his sons was chased down the road under a hail of stones, before the whole family was hounded out of the village.

"It was a scene of collective hysteria, of unfettered hatred," Jourde said at the time. "I've known these people all my life, they're my neighbours."

Badly shocked by the attack, Jourde has not set foot in Lussaud since.

Three women and two men, all farmers aged 39 to 72, went on trial on Thursday in the nearby town of Aurillac on charges of gang violence, attacking a minor, vandalism and making racist insults.

The deputy prosecutor in the case, Virginie Dufayet, called for six-month suspended jail sentences against all five, with a verdict due on July 5.

"There was a smell of revenge, in the village. It was clear in everybody's mind that when Jourde arrived there was going to be trouble," the prosecutor said as she read out the indictment.

When Jourde found out that news of his novel had reached the village, he had written to his neighbours, explaining he had used their lives as a inspiration and was "proud to be from Lussaud."

"It's only a book, nothing more," he wrote.

But his words fell on deaf ears.

Defence lawyers argue that Jourde brought the attack upon himself by failing to consult his neighbours of his book project.

"You wrote about their lives and their faults. You manipulated them, you treated them with utter contempt," defence lawyer Gille-Jean Portejoie charged in court.

The mayor of Lussaud, Jean-Marc Morel, says the book has reopened old wounds.

"Some people have taken this very badly, and the atmosphere is terrible. He will never be forgiven by local people," Morel was quoted as saying by Le Monde newspaper this week.

"Everybody knows. But we don't talk about these things. He brought out some ugly things, and no one will thank him for that."

"If you love Lussaud, like he says he does, then you take the people that come with it. And you stay well clear of writing certain things. We have nothing to gain from this, not like him."


Copright AFP

Subject: French news

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