THE DAY OF ST. ANTHONY'S FIRE by John G. Fuller

THE DAY OF ST. ANTHONY'S FIRE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

John G. Fuller (Incident at Exeter. The Interrupted Journey) here records another kind of trip, taken involuntarily by some 300 inhabitants of a French town. The breaking off of the church Madonna's arm in 1951 was an ill omen for Pont-Saint-Esprit, on the dividing line between Provence and Languedoc. The omen was fulfilled when the clients of M. Briand, a prosperous and responsible baker, fell ill after eating the second baking on a hot July day. They suffered, according to the author, from all the symptoms of historical ergotism, not seen since 1816 and most commonly associated with the Middle Ages. Victims experienced the euphorie beate, characterized by unsuitable high spirits and sleeplessness, followed by l'eclosion brutale, the ""savage breaking out""--hallucinations and a mad desire to leap from the nearest window. Five died. Briand and others had complained of the greyish, oily flour allotted to them by the powerful Union Meuriere. It was traced to the mill of M. Maillet and a lengthy trial ensued. The association of victims ultimately received recompense in 1965. Mr. Fuller is convinced that they were unwitting consumers of massive doses of LSD, a derivative form of ergot of rye. . . . A bad trip indeed--but who's going to take it?

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1968
Publisher: Macmillan