Title: The Red Bridge Murder—a dual language story
Author: Charles Barbara
Translator: Krisi Keley
Genre: Historical fiction/literature
This ebook includes two versions of the same story, the original French written in 1855 and the English translation. It’s eighteen short chapters of beautifully written prose that takes you back to the time of its writing and wraps you in mystery and mysticism.
The story is essentially about a man called Clement as seen through the eyes of his friend Maximillien Destroy. Clement—described as, the very image of revolting deterioration— and his wife have come into money since Max saw them last. Keen to prove that every increase in wealth is from a verifiable source, Clement insists on showing Max his bookkeeping ledger. This is our first clue that something is amiss, and as the story progresses we come to wonder just what it is that causes his wife’s dire illness. Eventually, even her doctor is forced to admit that it is a disease of the spirit.
The story focuses on the terrible results of extreme poverty and the philosophical aspects of committing a crime. The question posed is, even if you escape trial and the retribution of the law, and even with extenuating circumstances, can you escape God’s punishment or the law of karma?
Even after Clement leaves the country, Max hears about him from a traveller, for here is a man dedicated to doing good for others, but has no happiness himself. It’s as if he has a hole in his soul that eats all the goodness from Clement’s life.
L’Assassinat du Pont-Rouge is a story about crime and punishment, and it bears enough resemblance to Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment to make one consider the possibility that this was the inspiration for that famous work. Dostoyevsky read fluently in French and stayed in Paris between 1855 and 1866, and Crime and Punishment was first published in monthly instalments throughout 1866.
It’s been thirty years since I read Crime and Punishment, but The Red Bridge Murder has whet my appetite for more, so I now have Dostoyevsky’s work on my Kindle, and look forward to dipping into it again.
Nori Kameya—someone a great deal more familiar with Crime and Punishment than I—pointed out these similarities between the texts.
– poverty leads the protagonists to crime
– the scene of the crime is described vividly with strong detail
– the murderers justify their act with philosophical considerations; they believe it a “humanitarian” act
– they act from a belief there’s no moral law, something which gives them a sense of power
– they are subject to hallucinatory dreams in which their victims appear
– they soon experience the need to confess their crime to someone
– relieved by their confession, they still don’t experience true repentance
The beauty of this text for the modern reader is that it gives you a taste of the superb language and the deep themes Dostoyevsky deals with in Crime and Punishment without a huge time commitment. I don’t know how much of the way the language flows is due to the original French or due to the skill of the translator, but reading this is like enjoying a rich desert, each mouthful is exquisite. I think that everyone should read something like this at least once in their lives.
Krisi Keley is a writer and artist with a degree in theology from DeSales University and she has also studied foreign and classical languages. She was born in Philadelphia and currently lives in Chester County, PA with her family and seven dogs. Pro Luce Habere, a two volume novel that has also been released in a combined volumes edition, is the follow-up to her debut novel, On the Soul of a Vampire, and is the second book in a gothic series that spans more than eight hundred years of history. She is currently writing Genesis, Book III of the series, as well as working as a freelance editor.