The Good Doctor Guillotin: An Anatomy of Five

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Unbridled Books, 2009 - Fiction - 340 pages
The Good Doctor Guillotin follows five characters to a common destination--the scaffold at the first guillotining of the French Revolution:

Dr. Guillotin, of course, a physician and member of the National Assembly, involved in many important events, including the Tennis Court Oath. Nicolas Pelletier, the first victim--or "patient," as they were sometimes called, since the new beheading machine was seen as a humanitarian medical intervention in the state's technique of dealing death.

Father Pierre, the curé who accompanies Pelletier in his last days, a man torn between his religious commitment, and an equally strong commitment to the poor and their revolution.

Sanson, the famous executioner of Paris who, 9 months later would execute the king and retire from remorse.

Tobias Schmidt, builder of the new machine, a German piano maker working in Paris, a freethinker predicting the Terror that will follow, but allowing himself to initiate it. The revolution, after all, had reduced the sale of pianos.

Various other interesting figures briefly appear:

Damiens, Mozart, Mesmer, Louis XVI, the Marquis de Sade, Marat, Robespierre, Demoulins among them. The eighteenth century narrative is divided into several sections, each introduced by an essay in the author's voice, the first on five-ness and Pentagons; a second on hope and Utopia; a third on revolutionary violence; and a fourth on capital punishment.

This is no "historical novel." It is, rather, a fictive meditation on a contemporary conundrum using an eighteenth century drum.
 

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Contents

Five Paths 1 Pelletier
7
Guillotin
12
Sanson
17
The PianoMaker
27
The Country Priest
36
Ça Ira Hope and Utopia
41
The Mower and the Scythe
47
Two to Town and Back Again
56
Le Quatorze Juillet
163
The Great Fear
169
Felting
183
Equality if Not Fraternity
191
Restless Is the Heart
200
Liebestod
224
The Lion Roars No More
234
Unfortunate Encounters
245

Concerning Some Events in Paris
66
Flights of Fancy
76
Hard Times
86
Crowds and Power
96
Ça Ira
101
King Yes Says Yes and No
103
Allons Enfants de la Patrie
137
History Words and Violence
139
Sparks on Tinder
151
The Age Demanded
250
On the Method of Decapitation
257
Conjectures Concerning Reception
267
Tempo di Menuetto
271
In the Cell
279
A Conversation Concerning Consciousness
291
The Machine
297
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