Short summary - La Venus D'Ille - Prosper Mérimée

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - La Venus D'Ille
Prosper Mérimée

The narrator, at the request of M. de P., goes to the Catalan town of Ill. He must see all the ancient monuments in the area, which will be indicated by the local lover of antiquity, Mr. de Peyrorade. On the way, the narrator learns from his guide that a copper idol of a pagan goddess was dug up in the garden of M. de Peyrerade. The locals have already nicknamed the statue "evil": when it was being lifted, it collapsed and broke Jean Cole's leg.
De Peyrerads warmly welcome the guest. Their son Alphonse is silent, he is only interested in him as a Parisian, a metropolitan man. Alphonse looks ridiculous, dressed in the latest fashion, he has the hands of a peasant in the sleeves of a dandy. He will soon marry a rich girl who lives next door in Puygarigue. Monsieur de Peyrorade begins to praise his "Venus Tour", meeting his wife's condemnation: "She created a good masterpiece herself! Break a man's leg! " De Peyrorade replies: "Who was not wounded by Venus?" The narrator is about to sleep. From the window of his room, he sees a statue standing in the garden. Two locals pass by and start scolding her. One of them takes a stone and launches it into Venus, but immediately grabs his head: "She threw the stone back at me!"
In the morning, the Parisian and Monsieur de Peyrerade set off to inspect Venus. The owner asks the narrator to help him translate the inscriptions on the statue. It is impossible to imagine anything more perfect than the body of this Venus, but contempt and cruelty are read on her beautiful face. The caption on the plinth reads "CAVE AMANTEM" (Beware of the loving). The second inscription is carved on the forearm:
VENERI TURBUL ...
EUTYCHES MYRO
IMPERIO FECIT
Mr. de Peyrorade believes that Venus comes from the once Phoenician village of Bulterner (warped "Turbulnera") nearby and discusses the possible etymology of this word associated with god Baal. He offers a translation: "To Venus Bullterner, Myron dedicates, at her behest, this statue made by him." Men notice white specks of stones on the chest and fingers of Venus. The guest tells what he saw last night. After breakfast, he remains in the stable with Alphonse, who is occupied only by the dowry of his bride, Mademoiselle de Puygarigues. He wants to give her a ring with diamonds in the shape of two intertwined hands and engraved "sempr'ab ti" (forever with you). "It is flattering for everyone to wear one thousand two hundred francs on a finger!"
De Peyrerades and their guest dine with the bride. The Parisian finds that the rude Alphonse is not worthy of the lovely Mademoiselle de Puygarigues, who is so similar to the goddess of love. The wedding is tomorrow, Friday - the day of Venus. Alphonse goes out to play ball with the Spaniards in the morning. The ring gets in his way. Alphonse leaves the decoration on the finger of Venus and wins. The defeated Spaniard threatens him with retribution. The heroes leave for Puigarig, the groom remembers that he forgot the ring. But there is no one to send for him, and the young woman receives the ring of the milliner with whom Alphonse was having fun in Paris. The dinner wedding returns to Ill. The newlywed, who disappeared somewhere for a minute before sitting down at the table, is pale and strangely serious. The bride's garter is traditionally cut, Monsieur de Peyrorade sings the newly composed poems about two Venus in front of him: Roman and Catalan. After dinner, Alphonse tells the Parisian in horror: Venus bent her finger, the ring cannot be returned. He asks the guest to look, but he does not want to walk in the rain and rises to his room. Footsteps are heard in the corridor - the bride is being led to the marriage bed. The narrator again takes pity on the poor girl and tries to sleep.
In the early morning a scream rises in the house. Alphonse lies dead in a broken bed, and his wife is beating on the couch in convulsions. The young man's face expresses terrible suffering. The bruises on his body seemed to be squeezed with a hoop. Nearby lies his ring with diamonds. The Crown Prosecutor manages to interrogate Alphonse's widow. At night she lay under the covers as someone cold and stranger sat down on the bed. Alphonse entered the bedroom with the words: "Hello, little wife," and immediately his cry sounded. De Puygarig still turned her head and saw Venus strangling in the arms of her husband. The Spaniard who played the ball with Alphonse was not involved, and the servant, who was the last to see the newlywed alive, claims that the ring was not on him.
The Parisian leaves Ill. Monsieur de Peyrerade sees him off in tears. He will die a few months after his son. Venus of Illskaya, by order of Madame de Peyrerade, is melted into a church bell, but even in this form it continues to harm people: since the new bell rings in Illa, the vineyards have already suffered from frost twice.