Saturday, July 16, 2016

Conte Cruel - Genre Overview

Conte Cruel, or Cruel Tale, was a genre of short fiction, part of the decadent movement of late 19th century France, though the term also refers to certain story elements that persist today.  The main element seems to be an ironic twist ending that subjects the main character to the cruelty of fate.

I haven't read any proper Conte Cruel stories, but the form reportedly degenerated to it's most vulgar form in stories that were adapted to Grand Guignol - so naturally that's the side of things I'm most interested in.

Conte Cruel found it's way into suspense radio, EC Comics, and TV horror anthologies, though seems to have missed a lot of the pulps.  Weird Menace had twist endings, but usually of the "it was his uncle all along" type, not Burgess Meredith's glasses breaking.

Some translated reprints of the classic French stories are below:

Thirty Hours with a Corpse: and Other Tales of the Grand Guignol by Maurice Level

The Scaffold by Jean-Marie-Mathias Villiers de l'Isle-Adam

The Vampires of London by Angelo de Sorr

The Crazy Corner by Jean Richepin

Champavert: Immoral Tales by P├ętrus Borel

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