The killers, both child prodigies who graduated from the University of Chicago while in their teens, had absorbed their moral detachment from famous books: Crime and Punishment, where Raskolnikov philosophically justifies his murder of an old woman; Lafcadio's Adventures, the Andre Gide novel that introduced the world to the idea of the acte gratuit
, the motiveless crime; above all, the works of Nietzsche, which taught Leopold and Loeb that the superior man, the Abermensch, was not bound by conventional morality.
On prefere evoquer des bavures, un acte gratuit
, une demence passagere.
At a deeper level, the book has several different manners and borrows a number of elements from different authors; e.g., there is a striking example of the Gidean acte gratuit
in an early scene depicting the train journey, as a stranger knocks an old peasant woman flying for no better reason than that he has seemingly grown bored with her garrulity.
This clearly signed, wickedly sharp, painfully trendy kitchen knife comes with a contract licensing buyers to do their worst, with Tegala committed to shoulder blame for "any indictable proceedings in relation to the Act." His conceptual Grand Guignol practically hemorrhages issues: the artist as immoralist or redeemer; the power of money; the buying, selling, and "stealing" of human life; the nature of responsibility; the acte gratuit
; the definition of "incitement"; the operation of laws; the dispensation of justice (an incomplete list).
Nijinsky's work was pure of intention, matching Andre Gide's vision of an acte gratuit
, a perfectly free act.
He was fascinated by examples of the apparently disinterested acte gratuit
, or gratuitous act, and concluded that it is motivated solely by a personal need to assert one ' s individuality and is thus the only human act that reveals one'sessential character; Laecadio 's Adventures presents a murder as such an act.
A wealthy lawyer has murdered an insignificant clerk as an "acte gratuit
," as Gide called it in his novel Les Caves du Vatican (1914).