THE ADVERSARY: A True Story of Monstrous Deception

The Adversary by Emmanuel CarrèreEmmanuel Carrère
Metropolitan Books ($22)

by Josie Rawson

Monstrous, indeed. Among us there are the petty impostors: small-time sharks, little white liars. We all know them, or are them—little harm done. And then there are the monstrous frauds, the epic deceivers who author autobiographies so outrageous they change history. These figures are legion among gurus (think Rasputin). They haunt the halls of money (Trump) and politics (Kissinger). But perhaps the most fascinating among them are those without the benefit of the big stage, who lead otherwise mundane lives and would have died into anonymity had it not been for their monstrous crimes (Bruno Hauptmann comes to mind–the carpenter who came out of utter obscurity to kidnap and murder Lindbergh's baby).

Add to the ranks of these sometime nobodies one Jean-Claude Romand, a Frenchman now serving a life sentence for the outrageous shotgun murders of just about everyone he was related to: wife, son, daughter, mother, father. He'd been such a good Christian, a well-to-do doctor! neighbors remarked. Wrong. A loving husband, a family man. Wrong. A savvy financial advisor to his friends. Wrong. On nearly every count, anyone who claimed to have known Romand had been wrong about him, which was part of his genius. Emmanuel Carrère, his countryman, takes up the hard task of trying to decipher a man so hell-bent on keeping his double-life charade a secret that he'd annihilate anyone who might expose him. The investigation's success is slightly limited by an awkward translation into English and Carrere's penchant for steering his prose into the muck of solipsistic reverie, but look past these minor infractions and you'll begin to realize the extent to which Romand's grand hoax and evil rampage have altered French society.

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Rain Taxi Online Edition, Spring 2001 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2001