Violette Nozière: A Story of Murder in 1930s Paris

Violette Nozière: A Story of Murder in 1930s Paris

Violette Nozière: A Story of Murder in 1930s Paris

Violette Nozière: A Story of Murder in 1930s Paris


On an August evening in 1933, in a quiet, working-class neighborhood in Paris, eighteen-year-old Violette Nozière gave her mother and father glasses of barbiturate-laced "medication," which she told them had been prescribed by the family doctor; one of her parents died, the other barely survived. Almost immediately Violette's act of "double parricide" became the most sensational private crime of the French interwar era--discussed and debated so passionately that it was compared to the Dreyfus Affair. Why would the beloved only child of respectable parents do such a thing? To understand the motives behind this crime and the reasons for its extraordinary impact, Sarah Maza delves into the abundant case records, re-creating the daily existence of Parisians whose lives were touched by the affair. This compulsively readable book brilliantly evokes the texture of life in 1930s Paris. It also makes an important argument about French society and culture while proposing new understandings of crime and social class in the years before World War II.


If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would
be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we
should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.

George eliot

August 21, 1933. It is late summer and late at night. the city is unusually quiet because every Parisian who can afford to has gone on vacation. the scene is a two-room apartment on the sixth floor of a working-class building on the far eastern end of the city. the rooms are well appointed, overfurnished with imitation antiques, curtains, doilies, and family photographs, though the tiny kitchen between the two main rooms is shabby and primitive. Violette Nozière, a fashionably dressed young woman of eighteen, is in the bedroom, lying awake on the massive double bed. in the dining room, the bodies of her father and mother are sprawled on a folding cot. Just before midnight, Violette gets up and searches the apartment for money. When she finds it, she crams it into her purse. She looks in one last time on her parents; then, after checking to make sure no neighbors are awake, she exits, closing the door with utmost care, and creeps down the stairs.

She first heads over to Paris’s eastern park, the Bois de Vincennes, less than a mile from the apartment, and spends a few hours there in the dark. Then she travels to the Latin Quarter in the center of the city and books a room in a modest hotel near the Boulevard Saint-Michel. the next day, August 22, she sends a cable from the Latin Quarter to her parents’ address explaining that she will be out for dinner and will only get home late that night.

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