Tuesday Terror! The Murderer’s Violin by Erckmann-Chatrian

The Devilish Diet!

Last year, the porpy and I were put off the demon drink by this duo’s humorously macabre little story, The Burgomaster in Bottle. This year, it appears they’re now trying to put us off food too! Let’s see if they succeed in this week’s…

The Murderer’s Violin
by Erckmann-Chatrian

Emile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian

Karl Hâfitz had spent six years in mastering counterpoint. He had studied Haydn, Glück, Mozart, Beethoven, and Rossini; he enjoyed capital health, and was possessed of ample means which permitted him to indulge his artistic tastes – in a word, he possessed all that goes to make up the grand and beautiful in music, except that insignificant but very necessary thing – inspiration!

I know exactly how he feels! I possess everything except inspiration, talent and ability; otherwise I’m a brilliant musician! Anyway… every time Karl tries to write a piece of music, his instructor points out that it’s copied from one of the greats…

Karl cried with rage, he got very angry, and disputed the point; but the old master quietly opened one of his numerous music-books, and putting his finger on the passage, said ‘Look there, my boy.’

Karl is convinced, while his instructor is equally sure that Karl isn’t doing this deliberately. He has a theory as to why Karl has no original inspiration…

“. . . you are growing too fat decidedly; you drink too generous a wine, and, above all, too much beer. That is what is shutting up the avenues of your intellect. You must get thinner!”
“Get thinner!”
“Yes, or give up music. You do not lack science, but ideas, and it is very simple; if you pass your whole life covering the strings of your violin with a coat of grease how can they vibrate?”

Poor Karl! But he is heroic in the face of this terrible decree…

“I will not shrink from any sacrifice. Since matter oppresses the mind I will starve myself.”

He sets off on a long walking journey and, after several weeks of strenuous exercise and little food and drink, is considerably thinner but still uninspired. One evening, after a long day of walking, he is tired and night is falling…

Just then he perceived by the light of the moon an old ruined inn half-hidden in trees on the opposite side of the way; the door was off its hinges, the small-window panes were broken, the chimney was in ruins.

Karl is philosophical, murmuring to himself…

“. . . it is rather ill-looking indeed, but we must not judge by appearances.”

Eh? Why not? Yes, we must, Karl! Don’t go in!! Tchah! They never listen, do they? Still, once he gets past the thuggish axe-carrying innkeeper and his mad chicken-hugging daughter into the badly-lit half-bare room with only a small fire, things begin to look up…

“You have no cheese, then?”
“No.”
“No butter, nor bread, nor milk?”
“No.”
“Well, good heavens! What have you got?”
“We can roast some potatoes in the embers.”

In a sudden burst of enthusiasm, Karl realises this is the perfect place for him…

“I shall remain here three months – six months – any time that may be necessary to make me as thin as a fakir.”

However, later that night, in the loft that is his bedroom, he is awoken suddenly by the sound of a deep sob. He sees a man, a skeleton almost, lifting a violin and beginning to play…

There was in this ghostly music something of the cadence with which the earth falls upon the coffin of a dearly-loved friend . . .

* * * * *

Another lovely mix of humour and mild horror in this one! It feels a bit slapdash, to be sure – the story of the haunting is all kind of shoved in without enough explanation, but it doesn’t matter because it’s clearly only supposed to be an amusing entertainment rather than a meaningful psychological study. And on that level it works very well. Some of the stories in the collection are much darker and longer than the two I’ve highlighted so far, but they’re all well written and full of some great descriptive imagery. This one is a fairly standard ghost story, but Karl is a likeable hero. There’s almost a folk-tale feel to his quest and one can’t help hoping that somehow he will find his inspiration.

Good fun! The porpy and I were only a little scared – mostly we were entertained and amused.

Unfortunately I can’t find an online version, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be recommending the collection when I finish it, assuming the rest of the stories are as good as the ones I’ve read so far.

(The porpentine felt in the need of a feast after this…)

Fretful Porpentine rating:  😮 😮

Overall story rating:           😀 😀 😀 😀

NB The collection The Invisible Eye was provided for review by the publisher, Collins Chillers.

Amazon UK Link
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26 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! The Murderer’s Violin by Erckmann-Chatrian

  1. Oh, that does sound like fun, FictionFan. And I like that description of his passion to want to play. I’m not a gifted musician, myself, but I’ve always wished I could be. I like the description of the place, too. It all sounds like a great little tale!

    • Whatever the opposite of “gifted” is would be the word that would describe my musical talent… but after reading this I now realise it’s all down to too many doughnuts! Which to give up – the guitar or cake?? I think we both know the answer to that one… 😉

  2. Doesn’t Porpy look like he’s having a Thanksgiving feast??! Look at all those berries (and the happy grin on his fuzzy face!). This sound like a delightful tale — not too scary if one is up late at night by oneself, but entertaining to be sure. And haven’t we all wished we possessed great talent in one area or another?!!

    • He enjoyed his fruit very much and I had a chocolate doughnut just to be companionable… 😉 Haha – I would love to be better on the guitar, but I’m not sure I’m willing to starve myself for it… 😂

  3. Ah, right. That must be why I very quickly gave up on the notion of becoming a writer and went down the directing other people’s plays line instead. Who knows what might of happened if I had just gone on a diet.

    • Hahaha! Well, after nearly two years of attempting to master the guitar I now realise the only way is to give up doughnuts! I fear this may be a sacrifice too far… 😉

  4. I am glad this one could keep you and the porpy entertained. It sounds fun! Hope the porpy enjoyed his feast (I understand if reading about all this slimming down gave him the urge to indulge a bit).

    • Definitely more chuckles than screams in this one! Yes, the porpy enjoyed his fruit and I had a chocolate doughnut just to keep him company – bang goes any hope of me becoming a great musician, eh? 😉

    • Hahaha! Yes, although not much goodness in the supper menu! The porpy and I are still quivering at the thought of having to give up food if we want to be great musicians… 😉

  5. The porpentine looks pretty cozy there at the end, not at all scared! This story mostly sounds hilarious. What does being fat have to do with an inability to play the violin? And of course we’re allowed to judge creepy buildings by their looks! It’s like Karl didn’t even know he was in a ghost story!

    • Well, I’m now going to use the doughnut excuse for why I’m so rubbish at guitar… if it comes to a choice between music and cake I think we both know which one will win out in my house… 😉 Hahaha – I loved the don’t judge by appearances line – good grief, Karl! What are appearances for, then??? 😱😱😱

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