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The Ogre

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  1,149 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
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 nove ...more
Paperback, 373 pages
Published March 18th 1997 by Johns Hopkins University Press (first published 1970)
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The Lover by Marguerite DurasIn the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower by Marcel ProustDreams of My Russian Summers by Andreï MakineLa Carte et le Territoire by Michel HouellebecqThe Ogre by Michel Tournier
Prix Goncourt Laureates
5th out of 54 books — 20 voters
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-ExupéryLes Misérables by Victor HugoThe Stranger by Albert CamusThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre DumasMadame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Best French Literature
328th out of 660 books — 1,221 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Apr 20, 2011 Szplug rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At a high point in a pivotal relationship formed during his refectory days in an alien French boy's school, Abel Tiffauges is told the gruesome apocryphal story of the Baron des Adrets' newfound awareness of cadent euphoria by the obese enigma Nestor. The crescendo is reached when the latter murmurs in coda that "There's probably nothing more moving in a man's life than the accidental discovery of his own perversion." Just how much truth this observation bore is revealed to Abel many years later ...more
May 09, 2009 Josh rated it really liked it
Since The Ogre is a book obsessed with taxonomy, heraldry, classification of all kinds, I'll start by saying that the author MIchel Tournier most reminds me of is Thomas Mann. Mann's playful, ironic fictions seem to have fallen out of use these days (I for one can't get over Guy Davenport's comparison of him to James Joyce: "Mann imposes meaning; Joyce finds it; Mann looks for weakness in strength; Joyce, for strength in weakness. Mann's novels illustrate ideas; Joyce's return ideas to their ori ...more
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"), phor
Feb 24, 2016 Sinem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yazarın ilk okuduğum kitabı. Mitolojinin gerçekliğe yedirilmesi çok güzeldi. 2. Dünya Savaşı Nazi Almanyası etkilerini Goethe'nin Kızılağaçlar Kralı şiirinin verdiği esinle erkekte annelik güdülerini anlatmak... Bence hissedilmesi gereken bir deneyim. Başka türlü bakmak isteyenler için.
Jim Coughenour
Jul 12, 2007 Jim Coughenour rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bleakfiction
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 ...more
Jan 19, 2016 Marc rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In occasion of the death of Michel Tournier, today, I have re-edited my review of this master piece.

A very special kind of book, there's no doubt about that. But I'm not sure 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
Jacob Wren
Michel Tournier writes

There’s probably nothing more moving in a man’s life than the accidental discovery of his own perversion.


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.


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,
Mar 11, 2013 Jim rated it it was amazing
If you wish to be an ogre, then it is very important that you not only be bullied mercilessly, but that you react by choosing someone completely unsuitable as a role model. This is what happens to Abel Tiffauges, the son of an auto mechanic, who despite his height is treated like dirt at a Catholic school and ends by inheriting his father's garage.

Along the way, he develops some strange ideas regarding children. While he is not a pederast and never even attempts to initiate any overt molestation
Oct 17, 2012 *Dragonfly* rated it really liked it
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 j
Luís Blue Coltrane
I had read many glowing reviews about this book, and that's what motivated me to borrow it from the library... but this disappointed me much. Admittedly, this is an original novel, the style is very readable, the work of words is remarkable, it is not lack of intelligence or erudition. So this story was deeply annoyed and the character is unbearable (well, it's true, the tone is set from the first pages, where it is described as "ogre" and did not defend, but still...)
cardulelia carduelis
This is the weirdest WWII book I've read yet.

The Erl-King deals with the question of what happens to the sinister in times of war: people who likely, and in this case definitely, would have ended up in the penal system - what happens when they slip through the net and into a society of upheaval.
At least, I think that's what it was mostly about?

Over the Erl King's six uneven sections we follow the life of Abel Tiffaugues, switching sporadically between his whimsical narrative and the third person
Mar 15, 2010 Tyler rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People Who Collect Things
Recommended to Tyler by: Literary Award
Shelves: gay-interest
At the end of this story one mystery lingers: Did something magical happen? “If you answer yes,” the book seems to say, “humans are inescapably haunted. If you answer no, people may be safe, but the cost will come elsewhere.” Either way I now see clearly why Prussia suddenly vanished.

What instigates the mystery is the protagonist. Abel Tiffauge is a fairly normal French guy despite thinking of himself as an “ogre” with his over-muscled shoulders. But what’s normal is relative. Who among us hasn’
Nov 06, 2014 Kkneen rated it it was amazing
Hailed as the greatest living French writer, Tournier’s dark but amazing novel chronicles the life of a French citizen Abel Tiffauges, whose childhood obsession with an adolescent boy echoes throughout his life as a mechanic, a pigeon fancier and a soldier in Alsace. It is a book about the darkest sides of our natures and spans several countries and decades ending in Prussia during Hitler’s reign. This book won the coveted Prix Goncourt – the French Booker Prize.
Nov 11, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it
Highly appropriate after just reading Gombrowicz and Sebald. I mean, if I was that kind of person I'd think it was 'meant to be.' Pointing towards some well-ordered sequence of events or something. It's a relief to know, in France at least, they still give awards to books that deserve them.
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 ve
Nov 02, 2014 Peter rated it really liked it
Like some others said: a beautiful and strange novel. I first read this book in the early 1990’s, and wanted to know if I would still find it as powerful and haunting some twenty years later (I did). Three comments though. One: the parts about the woods and the “hyperborean light” of the East Prussian heath are what’s it all about (the stuff about France is –in my opinion- a sort of very long though enjoyable prelude). The final two stages (Rominten and Kaltenborn) of Abel Tiffauges’ long eastwa ...more
Jan 13, 2014 Jani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I picked up Keijujen kuningas (The Erl-King), I did not know much about it besides the heard fact that it was deeply steeped in the world of myths. This knowledge might have been a slight burden while reading, but then again added a certain type of awareness that added a level to the process. In any case, it did not at all hamper the reading experience.

In fact, it is tribute to Tournier's apparent skill as a writer that little did affect the readability. It was not affected by the protagoni
Mikael Kuoppala
May 08, 2012 Mikael Kuoppala rated it really liked it
Disturbing an powerful, the Ogre takes the reader through the scary psychology of totalitarian thinking by exploring the mind of a Nazi scientist during WWII.

When Michel Tournier is mentioned to someone, you often hear comments like: "Isn't that the author who could only write about human sexual perversions?", but if you examine his work more deeply, you'll see that there is a lot more to his writing than that.

"The Ogre" is Tournier’s second novel. It begins by telling us the story of a French m
Aug 15, 2015 James rated it really liked it
The Ogre tells the story of a man who recruits children to be Nazis in the belief that he is protecting them. The novel received the Prix Goncourt. Volker Schlöndorff directed a 1996 film, based on the novel, with the title The Ogre.
Michel Tournier’s novel is an unsettling work that relies on a range of narrative strategies to achieve its effects. Notable among these is the alternation between first-and third-person narration. The book opens with the “Sinister Writings” of the protagonist, Abel
Nov 03, 2015 Denni rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My oh my, this is a strange and complex book, and possibly the first novel I've ever read that has left me feeling that I need to read it over and over to properly understand it. A huge deal of praise must surely be due to the translator, Barbara Bray, for the difficult work of turning such a detailed and concentrated novel from the original French into English. Everything about this book is remarkable. It begins in 1938, in France, and ends in Germany as WWII finishes, backtracking from 1938 in ...more
Philippe Malzieu
Very difficult book. When I read this book, i'm complain to think to Hannah Arendt and banality of evil. This concept asks essential questions on the human nature. Eichmann was a small poor man, Tiffauge, "The ogre" also. The black part of inhuman is placed in each one of us . In a totalitarian mode, those which choose achieve the most monstrous activities are not so different from those which think of being unable about it.
It is the discomfort of the book. The title comes from a poême of Goeth
Neil MacDonald
Oct 25, 2015 Neil MacDonald rated it it was amazing
This book has not lost any of its shocking power in the half century since it was published. Tournier's character, Abel Tiffauges, is a monster, a French prisoner of war who finds his vocation in Nazi Germany, carrying off on horseback Prussian children for a Nazi military school. The book appeared in a Europe still struggling to come to terms with the horrors of the Second World War. In an epoch when we are coming to terms with the magnitude of child abuse, the book resonates with new horrors. ...more
Liutauras Elkimavičius
Sep 18, 2015 Liutauras Elkimavičius rated it it was amazing
Neabejotinas įžvalgos talentas pastebintis tai pro ką paprasta akis slysta nesustodama. Vizionierius, nuo kurio būdvardžių ir palyginimų pykina ir veža. Iškrypėlis, nes nežinau ar tiesiog fantazija gali kurti tokius sugadintus paveikslus ir supuvusius jausmus. Viena iš stipriausių, bet ir šlykščiausių knygų, kurias esu skaitęs. #Recom #LEBooks
May 19, 2014 Deanne rated it it was ok
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.
Jul 08, 2015 Marcelė rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001
Nežinau, ar šis romanas vertas trijų žvaigždučių. Visgi vaikų aprašymai turbūt vieni iš gražiausių, kokius esu skaičiusi. Jeigu tai būtų galima vadinti grožiu. Kol skaičiau knygą, visi vaikai, kuriuos netyčiomis sutikdavau bėgiojančius parke, besisupančius kieme ant supynių, klegantys, kvatojantys, drebinantys orą savo skambiu varpelių juoku, atrodė it būtų paimti tiesiai iš šio kūrinio. Nekalti, bet sutepti Tifožo minčių. Tobuli mažieji žmogučiai, liesomis kojomis, milžiniškomis akimis, purvina ...more
Jan 30, 2016 Francesco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Impegnativo questo romanzo! Per lo meno più di quanto potessi immaginare. L’avevo sottovalutato alla grande, affrontandolo con la stessa ingenuità del runner che si cimenta su un percorso nuovo ma considerando solo la distanza da percorrere e non la pendenza media del tracciato.
E di fatti, salvo alcuni tratti pianeggianti, si è rivelata nel complesso una lettura decisamente in salita!
Da una parte per il tema trattato, non facilmente digeribile, la pedofilia (ma non in senso esplicitamente sessu
Feb 17, 2015 Max rated it it was amazing
A fantastically interesting novel.

Plan for a bit of a slog through the marshes at the beginning. The book alternates between the reflective writing of the main character and a narrative. The first 100 or so pages are the reflective writing and are quite a bit more dense.

A book worthy of a detailed read. If you find the beginning a bit dense, you will lose a fraction, but not all of the story by skipping to judicial events roughly 100 pages in.

This book will be disturbing, but book club members
Jan 07, 2016 Lou rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating book that explores appetite, the monstrous appetites of Abel Tiffauges, a grotesque and sympathetic character, who seeks grace and beauty in his world, but all that is beautiful is inverted, almost as a result of the ecstasy it creates. Tiffauges, like the Nazis that carve up the background, the land and the time that sets his private exploration, is trying to build a context, a greater good, a system of sign and symbol to articulate and deify what is in the end after all only an o ...more
Jun 14, 2011 Jesse rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, own
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
Mar 14, 2015 blakeR rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a rare thing to open a book and encounter a voice so original and commanding that you at once know it will be one of the most memorable stories you've ever read. Thus opens The Ogre, with the perverse journaling of the titular Abel Tiffauges, uttering things so bizarre and disturbing that you're at once repulsed and captivated to continue reading. Even the typeface, at least in my edition, contributes to the feeling -- the letters are ever-so-slightly off-center, so that certain letters dro ...more
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Michel Tournier was a French writer.

His works are highly considered and have won important awards such as the Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française in 1967 for Vendredi ou les limbes du Pacifique. and the Prix Goncourt for Le Roi des aulnes in 1970. His works dwell on the fantastic, his inspirations including traditional German culture, Catholicism, and the philosophies of Gaston Bachelard.
More about Michel Tournier...

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