By Bill Harby
Beware: Dr. Frankenstein’s creature still lurks in Geneva. In 2014 he returned to the scene of his first murder in the Plainpalais quarter, and there he still stands near the skatepark, a fearsome hulk, an expression on his face halfway between horror and grief, oblivious to the shocked stares of passersby surprised to come upon him.
The famous 1816 Gothic novel, Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus, was written by 18-year-old Mary Godwin (later, Shelley) near the shore of Lake Geneva in the Cologny area of Geneva. She was visiting there with a scandalous coterie of lovers and friends, including her future husband English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his friend poet George Gordon Lord Byron.
It was a bizarrely cold, rainy summer due to the eruption of an Indonesian volcano – the year without a summer. The friends passed the dreary days by telling each other stories. Byron challenged everyone to write a “ghost story.” Shelley’s story became the novel, published anonymously in 1818, that remains not only the most famous product of that dark summer’s Geneva circle, but has been called the spark for the Gothic horror and science fiction genres – new forms of life in their own right.
The story includes the chilling account of how … well, no, we’ll have no spoilers here. But if you dare, you can read it yourself, starting here.
What was in the mind of Frankenstein’s creature as he wandered Plainpalais? The Geneva artist collective, KLAT, which created the 2.4-meter-high cast bronze sculpture, notes that “Frankie”, dressed in ragged clothes, represents not just the fictional character, but also “the figure of the vagrant or the marginal.”
They unveiled their sculpture in 2014 in an electric way that would not have shocked Dr. Frankenstein.
Today, Frankie still stands mid-stride at Plainpalais. If you stand in exactly the right place you can look directly into his tortured eyes, and he into yours.