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Literature: Malevil
Malevil is a 1972 French Sci-Fi novel by Robert Merle.

Emmanuel Comte is a school headmaster turned rancher in the rural village of Malejac, France. He uses his unexpected inheritance from his late uncle to purchase the titular Malevil, an English castle from the Hundred Years War neighboring his uncle's ranch. Once a tourist attraction, Malevil was condemned after a visitor was killed by falling masonry. The old castle becomes Emmanuel's passion and he spends a sizable amount of time and money renovating the property until it's comfortably habitable and operational.

His childhood friends stop by on Easter Sunday, 1977 to discuss local politics turning in their favor and end up tasting wine in the castle cellars.

Meanwhile, World War III happens.

Now Emmanuel and his friends are picking up the pieces and trying to survive after a nuclear holocaust. They need food, supplies, women, and what's left of the world around them is growing desperate and aggressive. But they have one key advantage: a fortified stronghold that weathered the centuries and the Apocalypse.

Malevil was adapted into a film in 1981.


This novel provides examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: The price Fulbert pays for subverting Villain with Good Publicity. His Corrupt Church consists of four men who are only half-assed loyal to him anyway. He would be overthrown in a heartbeat if he didn't have total control over the food and weapons.
    • Tragically, the same happens to Colin after he's elected to fulfill Emamnuel's place following the latter's death. Bereft of the constant encouragements and affections upon which he'd become emotionally dependent, Colin's inferiority complex soon takes the better of him and he becomes tyrannical and paranoid. Furthermore, while blessed with a great deal of cunning, he had neither Emmanuel's confidence nor his charisma, meaning that in a matter of months he manages to make an enemy of practically everyone in the region, before dying ignobly in a desperate attempt to regain some favor by showing idiotic courage in battle.
  • A-Team Firing: Discipline fails for both Malevil and Vilmain's men. Malevil springs their trap early and opens fire before Vilmain's men are in the Death Course. The enemy troops hit the ground and open fire, despite not seeing any of Malevil's defenders. Both sides blast away at nothing for several seconds before their leaders' cease-fire orders finally are obeyed.
  • Abusive Parents: Wahrwoorde. He forced this family to live in backwards squalor in a swamp, without electricity or anything they can't produce themselves. He's cruel to his son and mother-in-law, raped his step-daughters, and is willing to risk the young man's life for his gain.
  • After the End: Written as the memoir of Emmanuel. He covers some autobiographic back story before writing of the war itself, or what they experienced of it, and moving onto the accounts of life immediately after the bomb. Most fortunately for them, there is no fallout, Hand Waved as having been a clean "lithium bomb". A key point brought up several times is the matter of distance and time spent traveling, La Roque is nine miles from Malevil and what was a fifteen minute drive is now a several hour journey.
  • Angrish: Momo pulls this off when the wheat comes under attack despite barely being capable of speaking in the first place.
  • Angst Coma: Most of the cellar survivors enter a dazed stupor after the initial blast. Meyssonnier and Colin stare at the floor, Le Menou strokes her son's hair, Thomas turns the radio dial, all in complete silence. Only Peyssou and Emmanuel are able to shake off the stupor and enter dazed action. Peyssou prepares to leave, convinced his wife is worried at home and Emmanuel is the only one who can stop him from likely killing himself. Amusingly, Emmanuel is angry at Peyssou for forcing him out of his comfortable Angst Coma.
  • Archer Archetype: Wahrwoorde, the collected, cold-blooded poacher. After his death, Colin takes quite naturally to his bow. The book makes the usual assumption of archers being physically weak to heart. Colin is the short, clever, snarky member of the group so everyone knows that he's the natural archer.
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: Miette comes to the wrong assumption as to why Emmanuel doesn't rape her when they first meet. Her previous experience with men taught her that he would. As such, she doesn't take Emmanuel as a lover when she starts rotating through the men. It was believed by Wahrwoorde that Birgitta was at Malevil, he made it known she was part of his prize when he took the castle. Thus, Emmanuel keeps his hands off Miette because he already has a woman at home.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Vilmain, despite his veteran troops' protests, decides that Malevil will be razed immediately to avenge the death of his Dragon Bèbelle. While his pride can be counted on an ill-planned attack, Malevil's defenders recognize that his training will prevent it from being a suicidal one if he's losing.
  • BFG: Vilmain has a bazooka and a dozen shells. While not quite enough to truly damage Malevil, feet-thick stone being greater than inches of steel, it's more then enough to destroy the gates or kill defenders on the ramparts
  • Bad Habits: Fulbert. He doesn't dress like a priest, aside from a monstrous silver cross, and his credentials as an ordained holy man are shaky and vague. It's ultimately realized that if he never was a real priest by old world standards he has become one in assuming the role.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Angès and Catie eventually get into a fight trying to establish a female pecking order. Miette establishes it by beating them both to a pulp.
  • The Big Bad: Fulbert.
  • Big Blackout: It's the first effect they experience but don't understand its significance. The power suddenly fails in the cellar, while cautiously trying to light the candles they realize Momo's obnoxious radio is silent. Thomas first assume that the batteries died or that the radio broke until noticing that the dial light is on, the radio works but there's no signals for it to play.
  • Big Fancy House: Subverted: While not cheap, Malevil was surpisingly affordable to an upper-middleclass rancher with an inheritance. The castle itself was condemned and the land so badly kept that the property was considered a bad investment.
  • The Big Guy: Peyssou; big, rowdy, and uneducated.
  • Bigger Bad: Vilmain, a renegade military officer, and his roving army. He's been roaming the countryside for months but only recently entered the Malejac region. He wastes no time either; the night before Malevil is planning to take action against Fulbert, Vilmain's army captures La Roque and that morning his scouts are reconnoitering Malevil.
  • Bilingual Backfire: La Menou is not happy to meet La Falvine and proceeds to rant to Emmanuel in patois, only for La Falvine to deny her accusations in it.
  • Bittersweet Ending: La Roque and Malevil are working together, they're prepared and capable of thwarting invasion, the harvests are bountiful, everything is going exceptionally well for two years. Until Emmanuel and La Menou die, Evelyne commits suicide, and Colin becomes a tyrant. Eventually, he recklessly attacks a small band of raiders and gets himself killed. Thomas assumes leadership, and the situation improves.
  • Bi the Way: While Emmanuel expresses (and makes true on) his great deal of interest in women (particularly plump, well-endowed ones, blonde if possible) it is hard to ignore his constant, nigh-obsessive attention to every tiny detail of the appearance of the more handsome men around him, particularly Thomas (whose descriptions sound almost like they'd been pulled out of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight]). It doesn't help that he just keeps waxing poetic on his overwhelming "affection" for them and their strong arm, and honest eyes, and youthful faces...
  • Black Comedy Rape: Peyssou would always make the same joke about meeting Birgitta in the woods. His friends would have a good laugh as Peyssou is a happily-married man and plays the pervert.
  • Book Dumb: Peyssou. Often needs less-common "smart" terms from Emmanuel or Thomas defined. A good farmer and skilled mason regardless of his limited education.
  • Boring, but Practical: Malevil is not a pretty castle, as it built by the invading English, and was constructed to serve as a stronghold first and foremost. Fortunately, that is exactly what is needed.
  • Bread and Circuses: Fulbert averts this at his own peril. The people of La Roque are on strict rations, often reduced as punishment, and they're bored from a lack of entertainment or even semi-productive work. Everyone in town hides in their home, doing nothing, but grumbling about Fulbert's abuse. His people are miserable and lack only the brute force to overthrow him.
  • The Brute: Armand, Fulbert's enforcer.
  • Buxom Is Better: Miette is a robust woman in all ways. Amusingly, despite there being no other women at Malevil to be compared to, her chest still makes her all the more desirable then a less-endowed addition to the group. It remains true when her sister Catie is found to be alive. Catie is not as well developed as Miette and while attractive, and aggressively sexual, Miette is considered the greater beauty.
  • The Caretaker: Emmanuel becomes this to Evelyne.
  • Cast Herd: Several, while most of them merge at Malevil, they tend to stick with their original members while in the background. You have the original Malevil survivors, the "troglodytes" of L'Étang, the oppressed La Roque citizens, and the oppressing La Roque parish.
  • The Cavalry: Inverted and averted. Fulbert remains confident and calm during Emmanuel's trial even as it starts turning badly against him, believing Vilmain and his army returning to enforce order at any minute. Unfortunately for him, it was all a ruse; Vilmain and his men are dead and nobody is coming to save him.
  • The Charmer: Fulbert, and quite a dangerous talent.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Evelyne is given a dagger by Emmanuel prior to the battle. It's clear why she wanted it; a last resort if the battle goes wrong and Vilmain takes Malevil. Unfortunately, nobody is surprised when she kills herself with it when Emmanuel dies.
  • The Chick: Miette and La Menou. La Menou filled this role early on, the "tough grandmother" who didn't take crap from the men and tried to be the sensible one. After La Falvine and Miette arrive, La Menou becomes temperamental and antagonistic to the new women. Miette lives for this part upon arrival.
  • Christianity is Catholic: Averted. Malejac is a Catholic region of France and Malevil a bastion of Protestant England. Samuel was Protestant and unpopular for it. Old grievances survive even the war, Fulbert accuses Emmanuel being converted by his uncle, hoping to use religion as a weapon against him.
  • Clever Crows: Craa. Less creepy, but they attribute him with extreme cleverness; he's the only bird they've seen since the war so he must have some trick to survival.
  • Completely Missing the Point: Fulbert writes to Malevil, informing them he has been "elected" as Bishop of La Roque and that he is over-ruling Emmanuel's appointment as Malevil's priest and sending Gazel to fill that role. Emmanuel counters Fulbert's megalomania with some of his own; ancient documents grant the Lord of Malevil ownership over the fiefdom of La Roque, provides authority over the Church including appointments of clergy, and the assumption that Emmanuel, by right of being owning the property, inherits the old powers and titles due to the Lord of Malevil. It was meant to be a sarcastic joke and a jab at Fulbert's increasing self-appointed power. Everyone takes it seriously, especially as it gives them the, very old, "legal right" to overthrow Fulbert.
  • Confessional: Fulbert brings confession back to Malevil, and he is certainly not pleased when Emmanuel refuses to confess.
  • Conflict Ball: Catie holds onto it very tightly.
  • Conscription: Vilmain replaces his casualties by offering captured men a choice: join or die.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Lampshaded, as Emmanuel is stunned by the unlikelihood of the following events: Vilmain's men take La Roque the night before he planned to, they would have walked into a trap the next night when attempting it themselves. The only reason they don't is because of the scouts caught investigating Malevil in the morning, Emmanuel breaks his own orders and captures one rather then killing him, and the scout turns out to be a friend who wants to defect and warns them of their new enemies.
    "Realizing that your life depends on such absurd coincidences, that's something that makes for modesty".
  • Convection Schmonvection: Averted.
    • The cellar is a cool 55º Fahrenheit when the bombs are dropped. Within a minute the cellar is an incredible 150ºF. While struggling to strip his clothes, and breathe, Emmanuel notices with horror that the flagstones he's lying on are burning hot and that the stone cellar may soon function as a stone oven and broil them all alive. It doesn't occur to him until later to consider what temperatures outside the insulated underground chamber must have been.
    • Outside, Emmanuel's horses are not so lucky. The stables were protected from the flames by the cliff and castle walls. The heat from the stone cooks them and chars the iron-hard wooden beams.
  • Cool House: Malevil. An old castle with all the expected trimmings: built on a cliff, moat, drawbridge, murder-holes, the works. On top of that, it's of foreign English architecture.
  • Corrupt Church: The Parish of La Roque under Fulbert. It's really little more then a four men operating under the leadership of a fake priest using the parish council as an excuse to run an oppressive oligarchy.
  • Coup de Grâce: Feyrac is only mortally wounded from Colin's arrow and needs to be finished off.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: Bèbelle.
  • Cue the Sun:
    • The sun finally returns shortly after the both first rain fall, clean and non-radioactive, and confirmation that others have survived the war. After months of uncertainly, they can see the world slowly healing itself and they might actually have a future.
    • It happens again at the end, the setting sun comes through the chapel's stained glass window from behind Emmanuel right as he turns his "trial" into one against Fulbert. He can literally feel the light emanating from around him and illuminating the room as he dramatically lays out Fulbert's crimes.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Starving, rag-wearing refugees with pitchforks versus a half dozen guns and men defending their home.
  • Cute Mute: Miette. Without sign language she can only communicate via pantomime.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Averted. It's specifically requested that Angès not name her son Emmanuel, because of Someone to Remember Him By.
  • Death by Irony: Vilmain is killed by Maurice, using the discipline and training that Vilmain forced onto him.
  • Death Course: Malevil is upgraded to include one; the main entrance given a sub-gate can only be entered by crawling through, hoardings installed on the walls, and hidden pitfalls with stakes at the bottom.
  • Death from Above: The war of course. However, it pops up again with the first rain after the war. There is a real threat that the rain could be radioactive, slowly killing them and making all their struggles pointless.
  • Decapitated Army: The plan of attack against Vilmain's army. Vilmain isn't stupid, won't blindly throw his men at Malevil to die, and will certainly win in a prolonged conflict. Because he rules through fear his army of unwilling marauders should fall apart with the death of their leaders. Fortunately, Vilmain's Dragon Bèbelle is killed by Thomas the night before, in another stroke of luck another of his lieutenants is killed attacking another settlement. If Malevil's defenders can kill Vilmain and his last lieutenant his army should disband, especially as Vilmain has a dozen men at his disposal tops and the survivors will be few in number.
  • Decoy Trial: Emmanuel is marched into La Roque by Vilmain's defectors as a "prisoner", with the late-Vilmain supposedly following in a few hours. Fulbert puts him on trial for imaginary crimes with the intent of condemning him to death. Emmanuel wanted him to publicly implicate himself as being in league with Vilmain, which Fulbert gladly admits to, believing Vilmain's killers and rapists to be a Necessarily Evil and instrument of God.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: Fulbert's favorite instrument of revenge and enforcement.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The ending tastes a little of this. In part because of a Distant Finale. Some 575 pages are spent on a six-eight month period and the final 20 pages are a 3-year epilogue. More tragedy strikes in the final pages then the whole novel before because it covers a much larger span of time.
  • Dirty Communists: Meyssonnier resents being treated as such, especially as he is a literal card carrying Communist. Like any good communist dog, he is both an atheist and has para-military training.
  • Dirty Old Man: Samuel and emulating him, Emmanuel. Samuel was faithful to his shrew wife until her death, then went chasing after college girls half his age. Emmanuel never married, not for lack of trying, but pursues younger twenty-somethings up until the war.
  • Dirty Old Monk: The Abbé Lebas, the local priest when Emmanuel was young. He completely glosses over their confessions with a dismissive "Yes, yes. What else?", with one exception: He wants every sordid detail of any sexual matters they've come to confess. Times, places, methods, thoughts on the matter, object of their desires, the priest has an obsessive interest in the "sex lives" of pre-teen boys in '50s rural France.
  • Dirty Old Woman: It's mentioned several times that La Menou has a thing for younger men.
  • Disabled Love Interest: Miette is mute due to what is implied to be brain damage caused by a premature birth (presumably a kind of aphasia, although this theory falls in front of the fact that she's perfectly capable of reading and communicating via sign language). Meanwhile, Evelyn, probably the closest thing Emmanuel ever gets to a real "love interest", is asthmatic. The trope is painfully deconstructed as it is realized that, cute as she might be, Evelyn stands no real chance of surviving the post-apocalyptic world where her asthma medicines no longer exist. Everyone admits that she's living on borrowed time, waiting the attack that would inevitably finishes her, and when Emmanuel dies she decides to be done with it herself.
  • Disguised in Drag: At least part of why Bèbelle dresses as a woman. He captures La Roque in the night by being a Trojan Horse; pretending to be a woman seeking shelter in town, cutting the guard's throat afterward, and opening the gates for the rest of the army.
  • Distant Finale: The final footnotes from Thomas spans roughly three years.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Vilmain is killed by Maurice, one of his unwilling recruits.
  • Double In-Law Marriage: Simon and Samuel Comte married sisters.
  • Double Standard: La Menou has nothing but contempt for other women. While she isn't friendly with the survivors from L'Étang, Jacquet gets the least of her abuse for being male. She considers Miette and La Falvine to be useless in labor, a burden to their food supplies, and the future source of grief and disorder at the castle. Catie is treated the same way, especially as she's temperamental enough to fight with La Menou.
  • The Dragon: Armand and Bèbelle.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: La Menou withdraws from everyone else before suddenly dying within the week.
  • Drunk with Power: Colin replaces Emmanuel as leader of Malevil and bungles it badly. He becomes a paranoid tyrant and sours relations with La Roque. He gets killed in a bandit raid, attempting the crazy heroics that pervailed against Vilmain in the hope of salvaging his reputation.
  • Due to the Dead: Shortly after the bomb is dropped, Colin, Meyssonier, and Peyssou and hike into Malejac to confirm their family's fates. They return to Malevil to bury three families but all they could find fills a two by one foot box. Following battles they make sure that even their enemies are properly buried, for both health concern and to exercise good morals over those who would sack Malevil. In the end, Gazel is being pressured to not to give Fulbert a Christian burial. Emmanuel wants to give his enemy his due because doesn't want a modern day Antigone.
  • Endangered Species: Emmanuel's livestock but the horses in particular. His only surviving animals were in the cave "nursery", and all but one pregnant. While the pig and cow had male offspring and would survive, if by inbreeding, the pregnant horse had a filly. So far as they know there are three mares left in the world and then the horse is extinct.
  • Enemy Civil War: Fulbert's "parish" at La Roque is a rather half-assed and barely functional oligarchy.
  • Epic Fail: Bèbelle, the dreaded cross-dressing, psycho knife fighter, is ambushed by Thomas in the night. Thomas even warns him of his presence and tries to take him captive when a bullet to the brain would have sufficed. Bèbelle puts his deadly skills to the test, hurls his knife at Thomas...and misses.
  • Ethical Slut: Miette, she's a kind woman, understands her responsibilities as Sole Breeding Female, and sleeping with everyone prevents any jealous drama.
  • Evil Poacher: Wahrwoorde. A poor man, cruel to his family, harboring a jealous grudge for no real reason, and plotting to take Malevil for his own.
  • Fat Girl: La Falvine, and she takes a ton of abuse for it from La Menou.
  • Femme Fatale: Catie. She's beautiful, understands her status from Gender Rarity Value, and feels a compelling need to play flirty games with the men at Malevil.
  • Feudal Overlord: Subverted. Emmanuel could rule as a feudal king from Malevil but he doesn't want to. He makes sure that Malevil is run as a democratic society with any leadership invested in him coming from the council. However, this is later invoked as a response to Fulbert, as described under Completely Missing the Point.
  • Flirty Stepsiblings: Jacquet and Miette.
  • Foreshadowing: Happens a bit as the text is written as Emmanuel's memoirs, he alludes to future events at several times. It becomes more frequent towards the end when the matter of Malevil coming under attack draws near.
    • It's said constantly through the book that Colin is Emmanuel's favorite friend, shrewd and charmingly mischievous, and he's often allowed to get away with things that other's can't. Part of this comes to play during the battle against Vilmain. Emmanuel indulges his archery and Colin recklessly endangers himself to attack Vilmain with the bow, yet he survives and becomes the great military hero of Malevil. Unfortunately, the worst comes to pass when Colin assumes Emmanuel's place as leader of Malevil. Without Emmanuel to keep him in check, Colin becomes an abusive and paranoid tyrant who nearly undoes everything Malevil struggled for. Desperate to redeem himself, or trying to prove that Asskicking Equals Authority, he recklessly attacks a small band of raiders and gets killed.
  • Friends with Benefits: Emmanuel and Birgitta. She was a German girl who would spend time in Malejac and worked for Samuel. After Samuel's death, she turns her eye on Emmanuel and makes their relationship very clear: recreational sex and nothing more. They have a happy affair for a while before she leaves for home and writes to announce her marriage. Emmanuel takes it harder then he should have, and has to remind himself of what their relationship was.
  • Gender Rarity Value: Varies through out the story.
    • The worshiped variety at Malevil. Miette is flat out told that she will not be the property of six men and is given free reign to choose a husband. In response, she Takes a Third Option. Everyone treats her with the utmost kindness and respect, except La Menou. Catie is treated the same when she arrives.
    • Averted at La Roque. As a number of women have survived as well, both sexes go about their business as "normal".
    • The enslaved variety comes to rule La Roque after Vilmain's army captures the city. Fulbert barely kept his men from being rapists, it's a reward for Vilmain's veteran troops.
  • Good Eyes, Evil Eyes: Fulbert is described with both magnificent, lively eyes and an untrustworthy, shifty gaze.
  • Great Off Screen War: Emmanuel and company have no idea what triggered the nuclear exchange. From what they knew the world was about its normal, if often horrible, business until it suddenly died. They speculate on what might have caused it, perhaps Failsafe Failure or a General Ripper, but acknowledge that the exact cause of the war will almost certainly never be known.
  • The Hero: Emmanuel, educated and charismatic, and would have been the new mayor of Malejac.
  • The Hero Dies: Emmanuel falls ill and dies of appendicitis. Unfortunately, Emmanuel turns out to be the Living Emotional Crutch for three people.
  • Heroic Build: Thomas is often described as having the statuesque appearance of Greek sculpture.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Never far from Emmanuel's mind when he has time to consider what the war did to humanity and the earth, recognizing people like he and his friends are part of the faceless billions that died or are struggling desperately to survive in the ruins.
  • I Control My Minions Through...: Fulbert's group is held together through selfishness and sadism. Vilmain rules his men through fear.
  • Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance: Fulbert is ignorant of horses and firearms and it painfully shows. He can't get Emmanuel to give him a cow so he trades for it: two horses and three guns.
    • He doesn't understand the labor and military importance of horses in their new world. He gives Emmanuel two unruly mares and keeps only the tame geldings, not recognizing that Emmanuel has the only stallion in the region, now all the breeding stock as well, and his trade gives him a total monopoly on future horses.
    • He's clueless on firearms and tactics. On Fulbert's orders, Gazel unlocks the armory and gives Emmanuel his choice of three. After checking on ammunition, Emmanuel proceeds to grab the scoped rifles. With conflict pending between La Roque and Malevil, Malevil being a fortified castle with high walls, Emmanuel is robbing Fulbert of his best weapons and gaining a massive tactical advantage: Malevil's rifles will pick off Fulbert's shotguns long before they're a threat.
    • Lampshaded by Armand when backmailing Emmanuel over the horses coming with saddles; "Anything you can't eat, our Fulbert doesn't know the first thing about it".
  • In the Back: Armand is stabbed in the back when attempting to rape a woman. The big thug is unaware that he was stabbed and walks around town with the knife sticking out.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: La Falvine doesn't just cry, she turns into a blubbering blob.
  • Instant Expert: Averted. The citizens of Malevil work regular training in riding and marksmanship into their daily routines.
  • Instant-Win Condition: See Decapitated Army above.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Jacquet is forced into this. Wahrwoorde shoots at Emmanuel and Thomas from hiding and orders Jacquet to surrender, claim to be their lone attacker, and lead them into an ambush. Jacquet is too frightened to lie effectively and reveals the plot.
  • Just Following Orders: Fabrelâtre's attempt at dodging mob justice after Fulbert's downfall. Emmanuel at least wants him given a trial.
  • Kangaroo Court: Emmanuel's "trial" at the end. Fulbert is making absurd charges that he kidnapped Catie, is a heretic and a false-priest, incited rebellion against La Roque's beloved priest, and trying to conquer La Roque by force. The penalty was of course, going to be death.
  • Keystone Army: See Decapitated Army above.
  • Knife Nut: Bèbelle.
  • Knight Templar: Fulbert. For all the talk of him being a fake priest he truly believes himself to be a real one and that his actions are justified because he performs the will of God.
  • Known Only by Their Nickname: La Menou, "tiny".
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Evelyne. Thirteen but looks much younger, scrawny, and with severe asthma. To make matters worse, all medical treatments for her simply no longer exist. Fulbert deliberately uses her as a Littlest Cancer Patient in attempting to guilt-trip Malevil into giving La Roque a cow.
  • Lolicon: There is debate over whether Emmanuel is one when the nature of his relationship between him and Evelyne is eventually called into question.
  • Ludd Was Right / Science Is Bad: Debated in the final pages of the novel. They have a sizable library at their disposal and the time has come to decide what they intend to do with science and knowledge. In the end, averted. If for no other reason then battling hostile survivor civilizations that avert this as well.
  • Man Child: Momo, forty-seven years old and still a child who can barely communicate. He sneaks treats, wine, when his mother isn't watching, has to be dragged kicking and screaming to his bath, and once rolls around in horse manure when he finds said horse is alive.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Leave me alone, for God's sake", one of Momo's catchphrases, and the last thing La Menou says to anyone before she suddenly drops dead.
  • Meaningful Name: Emmanuel means "God is with us". Fulbert shares the name of an 11th century Bishop: "Saint Fulbert"' has controversial status as a saint since he was never canonized and he lived during the turn of the first millennium, a moment feared to be the Apocalypse.
  • Miniature Senior Citizens: La Menou is called tiny after all.
  • Morality Pet: In the end, Evelyne serves as one for Emmanuel. Prior to the battle, he made a sign proclaiming Vilmain and Feyrac as criminals condemned to death and promising fair treatment to any follower who surrenders. After the battle, Emmanuel has no choice but to bring Evelyne where they will ambush the survivors, ironically, where the sign was posted. Evelyne begs him to remember he promised to spare them, Emmanuel warns that they must be prepared to Shoot the Dog on his command. A single volley of gunfire kills the majority outright. The final two are too stunned to act but Emmanuel doesn't signal another volley waiting to see what they do. After a few confused seconds they drop arms and surrender.
  • Mordor: Gentle French ranchland becomes this: the forests charred, the farms and village smashed then incinerated, the sky darkened by ash, and the overpowering stench of death and smoke.
    "The whole world was now nothing but a vast common grave, and I alone was left, with my companions, to live on this charnel ground, to bury the dead and live on forever with the odor".
  • Motor Mouth: La Falvine can ramble, and ramble, and keep rambling,
  • Next Sunday A.D.: World War 3 has a definite date, five years after the novel is written.
  • The Night That Never Ends: Nuclear winter following the war. The sun doesn't break through the ash for two months.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Fulbert's death at the hands of the enraged villagers of La Roque.
  • No Sense of Humor: Thomas is often accused of this. He mentions this fact in his endnotes but offers no arguement.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Judith can't speak to anybody without squeezing their arm.
  • Nobody Here But Us Birds: Colin comes up with the idea of using an owl cry as a signal in battle.
  • Oh Crap: Armand after a very vocal fight with Colin. Emmanuel points out to him that three men from Malevil had him at their mercy and none of the townsfolk he abuses came to his defense.
  • Orcus on His Throne: Fulbert sits in his manor at La Roque and does little against Malevil. He's really content to live as decadently as possible after the Apocalypse at the expense of others. He does however convince Vilmain to attack Malevil with unsubtle hints about how great the castle would be as a bandit stronghold.
  • Parental Substitute: Samuel effectively adopts Emmanuel after he runs away from home.
  • Parental Abandonment: Inverted with Emmanuel. He abandons his parents because they disgust him, he considers his mother a worthless nag and his father a gutless coward. He only returns home for odd meals to maintain appearances that he lives with his family.
  • Powder Keg Crowd: The villagers of La Roque during Emmanuel's trial. They're kept in line only by the threat of Vilmain's rifles, and even then barely so. They are howling with rage as Fulbert lists of Emmanuel's "crimes" and condemns him to death. When Emmanuel turns the tables on the fake priest, making his crimes clear to all and revealing that his power base is broken, the crowd finally explodes and falls on Fulbert. It isn't pretty.
  • Precocious Crush: Evelyne is crazy for Emmanuel. She gets a little possesive and this leads to some issues.
  • Polyamory: Emmanuel argues for it given that there are six men and one, non-elderly, woman at Malevil since mankind is now a Dying Race. His friends vote him down and decide Miette will have only one husband of her choosing. Miette then overrules them by rotating nightly through lovers, except for Emmanuel.
  • Rancher: An interesting French example. Before the war, Emmanuel keeps traditional livestock, maintains a large meadow for them, and also runs a vineyard and produces wine.
  • Reality Ensues: After all he's been through and all he's achieved, Emmanuel, effectively Lord of Malevil, Bishop of La Roque and very nearly a living saint, dies of a simple case of appendicitis that, if pre-war technology had been available, could've been solved in a matter of minutes.
  • Replacement Goldfish: La Menou adopts Jacquet after Momo's death.
  • Reverse Mole: Hervè is an unwilling member of Vilmain's army and wants to defect to Malevil with his friend Maurice. He's captured, explains the situation, and is sent back to Vilmain with bad information and to return with Maurice when possible.
  • Scenery Porn: Despite mentioning that Malevil is an ugly utilitarian castle, there is a considerable amount of detailed description of it's layout, appearance, and features. Justified as Malevil is the center of the story.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: La Menou doesn't take any crap from the men around her and she's outright abusive to Miette and La Falvine.
  • Shoot the Dog: Malevil's defenders gun down a mob of starving refugees that descend on their fledgling wheat harvest; partly to save their food, mostly as revenge when one kills Momo.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Miette is incredibly kind and selfless, playing the Ethical Slut to make everyone happy. Catie is cunning and selfish, playing The Tease because toying with men is a game to her.
  • Sinister Minister: Fulbert.
  • The Sixth Ranger: Thomas, the one member of the Malevil survivors who didn't grow up with the others. He's better educated then most of his companions, doesn't speak the regional patois, and an atheist without a religious upbringing.
  • Slashed Throat: Bèbelle's chosen method of killing. Also, the fate of any men who don't join Vilmain's army.
  • The Smart Guy: Thomas.
  • Smug Snake: Fulbert.
  • Speech Impediment: Momo appears to have permanently slurred speech, his words are usually blended together and with a lot of extra "H" sounds. For example, "Leave me alone, for God's sake!" comes out as "Heevheeahone, hor Hodhake!!"
  • Storming the Castle: After proclaiming that La Roque is a fief of Malevil and hearing of an unpunished murder in the town, Emmanuel and company make preparations to capture La Roque and outst Fulbert. Except the night before, rogue army commander Vilmain takes La Roque himself. The trope is Inverted when the good guy's castle is besieged at the end of the story.
  • The Straight and Arrow Path: Wahrwoorde preferred to use a bow, he was a champion archer and the silent weapon helped him poach undetected.
  • Stupid Sacrifice: An enraged Momo tackles one of the refugees eating the wheat and starts whaling on him. A moment later he takes a pitchfork to the chest. While his death stirs the stunned defenders into action, it ends in a massacre that they were hoping to prevent.
  • Take Our Word for It: The sound of the nuclear explosion. Emmanuel struggles to describe the sound of the nuclear detonation; states that every familiar example of loudness is "ludicrously inadequate", describes it as being beyond human perception, and notes that it has this impossible effect on him while a story underground and surrounded by seven foot thick stone walls.
  • The Tease: Catie.
  • Team Pet: Craa the raven. They name and feed him as he is the only wild animal they've seen since the bomb. They grow concerned after the first battle occurs and Craa makes an extended disappearance.
  • Together in Death: Evelyne kills herself in grief when Emmanuel dies.
  • Too Long; Didn't Dub: Happens at times through the book. In particular, titles and honorifics such as Abbé and Monsieur.
  • Trickster Archetype: Colin is a mild version of this. He's shrewd and often times a pain in the ass. Emmanuel lets him get away with a lot of crap.
  • True Companions: There is a saying in Malejac: "Each will strengthen each". The survivors in Malevil truly live for each other, from the members of Emmanuel's childhood "Club" to the newcomers from La Roque and L'Étang. For them surviving the Apocaylpse is merely survival, surviving the Apocalypse with their large extended family is actual living.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: Emmanuel describes his Uncle Samuel, noting that in doing so he describes himself.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Emmanuel. The story is presented as his memoirs and he doesn't have perfect memory of all events. Thomas provides correcting notes after certain chapters. However, Thomas isn't necessarily more reliable, as some of his notes are less correcting of mistakes and omissions and more arguing of opinions.
    • Emmanuel claims to have been active and mobile during the holocaust in the cellar. Thomas contradicts one act of heroism (shutting the cellar door) and another act of selfishness (hiding in the cool water tub).
    • Thomas corrects what would be a glaring Plot Hole to anybody in-universe reading the memoir: Emmanuel doesn't mention a single word about Miette's solution to her marital/sexual situation.
    • Thomas argues Emmanuel's assessment of Miette, debating her beauty and intelligence. He also finds it necessary to defend his wife Catie from Emmanuel's harsh criticism.
  • Villain Exit Stage Left: Zig-zags a bit. With Vilmain dead, his last surviving commander, Jean Feyrac, leads their men in an orderly retreat back to La Roque, Emmanuel and company watching them leave from the castle. Subverted when they mount their horses and ride along a hidden trail to cut off the survivors in a deadly ambush. Double subverted when it's realized that Feyrac is alone, riding on a bicycle ahead of the soldiers, and Emmanuel must risk letting him go to kill the bulk of his men. Finally subverted again when Colin's bow takes Feyrac down silently and letting the enemy walk blindly into the trap.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Subverted. One would think that a priest running a religious dictatorship would have devoted followers who obey out of faith and fanatics willing to die for him. He had the loyalty of La Roque once, he was able to convince the village that he was a priest and that trusting him to be in charge and stockpile their supplies was a good idea. Once he was sitting in a fortified manor with all the food and guns at his disposal he pissed away all of the good will that La Roque gave him.
  • We Named the Monkey Jack: A French tradition it seems. Since the Revolution the ranchers have been naming their livestock with nobility titles as a generational Take That against their Great-great-etc-grandparent's oppressors. Namely at Malevil, there is a Baronne, Comtesse, Marquise, Prince, and Princesse.
  • What an Idiot: In universe, when Armand attempts to blackmail Emmanuel. At first Armand seems cannier than Fulbert, knowing the latter would overlook the value of the saddles on the horses he's trading to Malevil, and demands a bribe to not correct him of his mistake. But then he accepts Emmanuel's gold signet ring as payment, even though gold and jewelry are worthless in the new barter economy. Emmanuel has a chuckle over this later.
  • Wife Husbandry: Emmanuel recognizes that his relationship with Evelyne is not-quite adopted father and borders on Lolicon. He tries to raise her as best he can for her sake, but recognizes that if she grows up to be a beautiful young woman, his Dirty Old Man habits would win the day and he will have raised a bride for himself.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: Emmanuel makes a brief comment concerning Birgitta: he "complements" her work ethic as "not being backwards" but goes on to say that Germans have no real sense of direction and motivation toward a goal.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: Emmanuel finds himself in this position. After killing Wahrwoorde, his tormented family quietly accept that Emmanuel is their new tyrant, to be abused (raped in Miette's case) at his leisure. He makes it clear that he has no intention of being anybody's master.

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alternative title(s): Malevil
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