The Erl-King

- by Michel Tournier

There’s no better author than this French novelist to read in the time of Covid-19. Through

his books I’ve discovered that studying others’ radical difference­s gives a lot of insights about oneself. Tournier understood social distancing before it was a term; he’s a master of exploring the hermit’s mind.

In The Erl-King

(Atlantic Books, 2013) he introduces Abel Tiffauges, an atypical character whose thinking is incongruou­s with our mental models. The book follows his journey from prisoner of war to becoming the “ogre” of a Nazi school. There, he steals young Aryans from their families—a direct analogy to Nazism

itself. A strange novel for a strange


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