The gods are a-thirst

by Anatole France

Other authorsA. R. Allinson (Translator), Jean Oberlé (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 1942





London : The Nonesuch Press, 1942.


Set in Paris during the years of the Reign of Terror, 'The Gods Want Blood' centres on the rise to power of Jacobin sympathizer Evariste Gamelin, a young painter who becomes a juror on a local Revolutionary tribunal. Caught up in the bloodthirsty madness surrounding him, he helps to dispense cruel justice in the name of his ideals, while at the same time succumbing to his own petty instincts of revenge when he jealously pursues a rival for the affections of his lover Elodie.

User reviews

LibraryThing member richardderus
Rating: 3.625* of five

The Book Report: The journey through the Terror of the French Revolution made by artist Évariste Gamelin, aspiring bourgeois to Jacobin true believer to his inevitable fall after the Coup de Thermidor. One man's life journey explores the entire *amazing* and enthralling course of the defining break between the Old World Order and the New.

My Review: This book was a Book Circle read. Frederick Davies translated this work very ably, in that the prose is supple and muscular. The book is inexorably start is to need to finish...and the historical developments, so well-known to M. France, are explored fully without being windy and drawn out.

I love the French Revolution as a fictional backdrop. How can you heighten suspense more than set a book against the backdrop of a murderous rampage that changed the world? Can't say that for most massacres. The history of the French Revolution is equally enthralling to me. I read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica article on it, fascinated and riveted, while I was recovering from mumps one spring in the 1960s. Been hooked ever since.

I detested Évariste Gamelin. Start to finish, he ticked me off, made me ill, caused my blood pressure to spike to unsafe levels, and my shouting at the book (ineffective, sad to say) drove the dog to sleep on Puppy-mommy's bed. Getting that engaged with a book is a Good Thing. It means I've invested my feelings in the experience. This book is 100 years old this year. The events chronicled took place 220 years ago. It's as vibrant and exciting today as ever.

Recommended for all lovers of history. Read it, and weep.
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LibraryThing member erikschreppel
Anatole France does a stunning job in The Gods Will Have Blood showing the slow disintegration of the French Revolution into the Reign of Terror. Spanning the years 1792 to 1794, beginning after the Jacobins have effectively seized control, France attempts to understand the revolution through the effect it has on the people living it. His fictional protagonist Gamelin personifies the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the revolution itself. He begins as an idealistic republican. Although he has cut himself off from other people by his austere manner, he none the less truly believes in helping his fellow man. But like the revolution itself, Gamelin slowly forsakes his compassion for brutal repression. France does a masterful job as always of not just showing each side to the story, but also showing how everyone was complicit in what happened. No one escapes responsibility for the outcome. Gamelin’s transformation from compassionate artist to sanguinary magistrate is the most overt, but not the only accusation thrown by France. Citizeness Rochemaure embodies the machinations of aristocracy in her trying to play both sides for her own profit, the greed of the merchant class shown by Jean Blaise’ profiteering, and the blood lust just under the surface of the populace as bluntly shown in Elodie’s blood fueled sex drive. The same Parisian crowds, who gaily celebrated as Marie Antoinette was guillotined, show equal glee for the execution of Robespierre.
Many scholars have written of the similarities between the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution. But none have done it as pointedly as Anatole France. The Gods Will Have Blood was published in 1912, predating the Russian Revolution by 5 years, yet the parallel is so apparent, that you can’t help but make the connection at almost every turn. This book could have been written by John Reed in 1917. France also shows how a society can allow something like the Terror to happen. One can easily see a connection to Nazi Germany in how a society can overlook at best, and at worst fully participate in abject horrors.
Classic literature can often seem dated, but this could have been written yesterday. France’s prose is immediate and universal, he amuses us and at the same time makes us think very pointedly about society and our role in it.
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LibraryThing member jorgearanda
A symbolic but historical morality tale about the all-too-common perversion of the revolutionary spirit.
LibraryThing member vguy
Not a strong story, it centres on Gamelin, an artist of Puritan tendency, favouring a neo-classical style that fits with the overturn of the aristocratically Baroque. The first half of the book labours somewhat as we meet various characters and are offered discussions on revolutionary aesthetics (from the hero) and revolutionary fashions (from his less committed inamorata). It gathers pace when he gets appointed to a tribunal and has a chance to play a more active role condemning people, mainly innocent, to death. His revolutionary zeal is exercised by condemning everybody without exception. He gets the inevitable taste of his own medicine in the end, being in the train of the wrong party leader.
The best parts of the book are not the ones concerning this incorruptible, but about two of his victims, Brotteaux, an atheist ci-devant now plying a trade in puppets, and Pere Longuemar, a priest who is effectively on the run. They have lively conversations outdoing each other in human kindness and droll thoughts on life, death and the Terror.
The account of the Terror is pretty nasty: the systematic attack, not just on real enemies but on the innocent, presages the larger scale nightmares of more recent times. But it might be better to read in a non-fiction account. Here one does not know what is "true" and what is novelistic effect. The teenage tart, with a heart, for example, is warmly described, but a rather cliché trope. And would she really shout "Vive le Roi!", and would she really be guillotined for her scarcely understood utterance? Gamelin's appointment to the tribunal is also a touch odd: he's recommended by an acquaintance with strings to pull, so it seems almost a chance event, rather than the result of his ambition or striving, which would be more life-like. Perhaps this is also a literary device, to illustrate the transformation of theory/ideology into lethal practice
The book has been on my wish list since I was at school. Glad I've now caught up with it, if slightly disappointed.
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LibraryThing member hbergander
Ideological and political fanaticism were an important issue to the terror regime during the French Revolution, as Anatole France reveals in this story of a close-minded character.
LibraryThing member AdonisGuilfoyle
I recall a variation on the title (The Gods are Athirst) from back during my original Scarlet Pimpernel-inspired F-Rev marathon, but still can't place the actual novel. I don't think I read this one the first time around, but then the story is hardly memorable. Chauvelin-esque anti-hero Evariste Gamelin is swept up in the fervour of Robespierre's Terror, betraying those closest to him in the search for an ideal revolution. And he condemned these charming, pitiful creatures to the guillotine, convinced that he was proving his honesty, his manliness, his sense of what was right, showing wisdom, impartiality and devotion to the Republic.'

While I would recommend France's take on the Revolution over Dicken's, or Hilary Mantel (fewer words, for one), I'm still a lifelong fan of Baroness Orczy for smuggling historical fact into entertaining fiction (and yes, she also did her research, she was just a bit more creative with her application of the truth!)
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LibraryThing member varielle
The Gods are A-thirst, aka The Gods Will have Blood, is a French Revolutionary drama about the horror that can follow blind committment to ideology. In the initial scenes a young, zealous artist is criticizing the beautiful needlework of his would-be sweetheart for lacking sufficient classical republican fervor, after quarreling with her father. Instead of telling the jerk to get lost, she obligingly picks all the threads out and starts over and then arranges a rendezvous. Of course, if young people loved wisely there would be no story. This poor girl has the misfortune to love a fellow who is so uncompromising in his beliefs that his hands are soon soaked in the blood of pretty much everybody who doesn't agree with him. Must be the artistic temperament.

I took issue with this particular translation which was likely done in the 1940s. Even then some of the word choices were archaic and stilted. When's the last time you saw a military force debouching on to the street, citoyen? Maybe the translator thought he couldn't find suitable words in English, but there were many French phrases of a complexity that would cause difficulty for someone who wasn't fluent. Look for a more modern translation.
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LibraryThing member charlie68
Story of the descent into the darkness of The Terror. Nice easy short read, with a history lesson thrown in. Well worth the effort.
LibraryThing member Artymedon
[Les Dieux Ont Soif] is a thematic book. A book about a revolution, a book about how times and aesthetic change because of a revolution. It is a book over how men and women change because of a revolution: what are their view of the past and their fears of the future.

It tells the story of an idealist painter who becomes the appointed jury member of a section revolutionary tribunal. It is a book about his transformation in this time of change that was Paris in 1793 when pressured by outside armies and inside ennemies, the Royalists of Vendee and the pro-British Toulon inhabitants, radical measures were taken to save the threatened "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" created in 1789 with the toppling of the king and two of its three orders or strata pre-revolutionary society: the nobility and the clergy.

It is a book over how the past is viewed with scorn by the tenants of the new aesthetic who recommend giving to the fire the chinese inspired commodes of their salons to replace them with David inspired furniture of purest Roman or antiquity inspired lines- a bit the same as with any change throughout the times from floral art nouveau to Art deco or from Art deco to purest neo industrial lines. Anatole France's language in the book follows this change and becomes less archaic at the end of the book than at its beginning when it adopts the philosophical dialogue shape of a Diderot or when describing an outing in the country side reminiscent of Watteau by Parisians who want to remember earlier more innocent pleasures of the old order. Even the love scenes between the painter and the heroin have visual qualities and are on purpose reminiscent of Fragonard's paintings now objects of derision.

It is also a book about justice and how it is administered. But Anatole France's vision is so much more subtile than the countless books who describe the French revolution of 1789 with blood dripping in the streets.

The fear of the razor of the guillotine is palpable but never gory. It also shows the eternal theme of how ideals of Equality upon which revolutionary justice is created can be perverted when it starts with a concern for individual rights as reflected in the confusing trial of a defeated General and when under the pressures created by the deteriorating situation at the border and the invasion of the armies of Austria and Prussia who want to restore the monarchy, a mass justice of exception groups cases of 50 counter-revolutionaries in one expedited procedure.

This book clearly transcends its time and places and the period it describes becomes universal.
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