Heidegger attributes Nietzsche with the saying that vengeance is a passion, is the passion of passions.
The massacre had happened at Le Mans. The general public followed the investigation through the general newspapers; the journalism in question accounted for the most informed minds in the field. Still there was mystery surrounding the motives of the crime perpetrated by the two murderesses, Christine and Léa Papin. If the notion behind the sisters' atrocities comprised the passion of passions, the murders are certainly exceeded by the malady of being two.
At the scene of the crime Christine, the older sister, was twenty-eight years old and Léa, the youngest, was twenty-one. They had been working as servants for a solicitor, his wife and daughter, the family residing in a little provincial town. The sisters lived with the family while sharing one room in the house.
If the mother was a meticulous housewife, the daughter didn't fall short in demands and needs. Christine and Léa quick to comply, the family pondered on their efficiency and hard work with pride. The maids attributes lacking nevertheless reward and human sympathy from their patrons, haughty indifference stood as a response: one didn't speak to the other.
"Yet this silence," argues Lacan, "could not be empty, even if it was obscure in the eyes of the actors. One evening, February 2, this obscurity materialized through a banal power failure. A blunder on the sisters' part caused it, and the absent mistresses had already displayed hot tempers on lesser occasions. What did the mother and daughter display when they returned and discovered the little disaster? Christine's statements varied on this point. However it may be, the drama unfolded very quickly, and it is difficult to avouch a version of the attack other than the one given by the sisters, that it was sudden, simultaneous, carried at once to a paroxysm of rage: each seized an adversary, tore her eyes from their sockets (a deed unheard of, it was said, in the annals of crime), and brained her. Next, with the aid of what could be found within reach, hammer, fin pitcher, kitchen-knife, they assailed the bodies of their victims, bashing their faces, baring their genitals, and deeply slashing the thighs and buttocks of one in order to soil with blood the members of the other. Then they washed the instruments of these atrocious rites, cleansed themselves, and retired to the same bed. 'That's a clean job of it!' ['En voilà du propre']. Such is the phrase they exchanged, which seemed to restore to them a sober tone, empty of all emotion, after the bloody orgy."
Jacques Lacan, "Motives of Paranoic Crime: The Crime of the Papin Sisters," 1932.
Artist: Cathy Ivory
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