Sébastien Roch

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Sébastien Roch
AuthorOctave Mirbeau
Original title' Sébastien Roch'
Subjectchild sexual abuse by priests
Publication date
April 1890

Sébastien Roch is a novel written by the French journalist, novelist and playwright Octave Mirbeau, and published by Charpentier in 1890. Last French edition : L'Age d'Homme, 2011.

English translation : Sébastien Roch, Dedalus, « Empire of the senses », 2000, 266 pages (ISBN 1873982437).

Illustration by Henri-Gabriel Ibels, 1906

Plot summary[edit]

That is the emotional story of "the murder of a child’s soul" by a Jesuit priest, a teacher at the private school for boys of Saint-François-Xavier in Vannes, Brittany, where Mirbeau spent four painful years as a pupil, before being expelled, at the age of fifteen, in suspicious circumstances.

At age eleven, Sébastien is sent to boarding school by his father, an ironmonger and terrible snob. The boy does not fit into the school and its aristocratic and wealthy students. He is ignored by nearly everyone until a pedophile priest starts to befriend him. The innocent 13-year-old boy is seduced, then sexually abused, by Father de Kern. Sébastien is expelled along with his only friend Bolorec, the boys having been accused of indulging in inapproprite sexual acts. The charges have been trumped up by Father de Kern.

Sébastien's life is ruined and he is unable to hold down a job or make friends. He cannot even build a relationship with Marguerite, his childhood sweetheart. Aged twenty one, Sébastien is absurdely killed during the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, his body being carried from the battlefield by Bolorec.


De Kern, seen by Henri-Gabriel Ibels, 1906

Octave Mirbeau denounces the child sexual abuses and the impunity of the rapists, especially when they are priests: for the first time, he breaks a lasting taboo.

But, for him, what is called education, within the context of family, school and church, is also a dangerous violation of the child's mind. Rather than a Bildungsroman, a novel of self-cultivation, Sébastien Roch is a novel of self-destruction.

External links[edit]