Invitations to dinner that promise “an evening of literary conversation” make me faintly uneasy, though I haven’t been able to articulate why.

Now, thanks to a random Google search for “unusual literary lists”, I know. In two words: Issei Sagawa.

I’d never heard of him before, but Sagawa’s interest in literature emerged fairly early, when he was a literature student at Paris University. Attracted to one of his teachers, he wondered whether he could eat her. The opportunity never arose, but in 1981, he invited a student of avant garde literature, Renee Harteveldt, back to his house for an evening of literary conversation:

From Sagawa’s confession:

“I am amazed. She’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Tall, blonde, with pure white skin, she astonishes me with her grace. I invited her to my home for a Japanese dinner. She accepts. After the meal I asked her to read my favorite German Expressionist poem. As she reads i can’t keep my eyes off her. After she leaves I can still smell her body on the bed sheet where she sat reading the poem. I lick the chopsticks and dishes she used. I can taste her lips. My passion is so great. I want to eat her. If I do she will be mine forever. There is no escape from this desire.
I arrange for her to read the poem for me once more. I lie to her. I tell her I want to record the poem on tape for my Japanese teacher. She believes. I prepare everything. The cassette recorder for the poem, the rifle for the sacrifice.”

He recorded her reading the poem; he shot her; then he ate several parts of her body, then roasted some meat off her hip, and ate it while listening to her recording of the German poem.

This happened in 1981; Sagawa is free, and has not, apparently, eaten anyone else since. All the same, if you want me over for an evening of literary conversation? I’ll pass.