Books by Sylvie Germain

THE BOOK OF TOBIAS by Sylvie Germain
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Aug. 10, 2000

The most recent (1998) of Germain's highly charged Gothic antiromances set in the French countryside (close kin to her The Book of Nights and Night of Amber) is a quirky retelling of the biblical apocryphal tale of Tobias. Its principal characters—both hyper-real and ineffably striking—include a guileless wayfarer, his pragmatic guardian angel, and a beautiful young woman who is either an innocent virgin or Death's handmaiden on earth (if, indeed, not both). Germain's atmospheric landscapes are clogged with haunting detail, but her people are so freighted with garish eccentricities and mythic resonances that it's often initially difficult to credit their reality. Once you've entered her hothouse fictional world, however, there's no resisting its gorgeous, impossible density and seductiveness. An acquired taste, her ineffably odd books are nevertheless highly accomplished performances.Read full book review >
NIGHT OF AMBER by Sylvie Germain
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 30, 1999

Night Of Amber ($23.95; Sept. 30; 336 pp.; 1-56792-090-X). The sequel to Germain's prizewinning The Book of Nights (English translation 1993)—a magical-realist chronicle that surveyed the fortunes of the ineffably grotesque Peniel family throughout the postwar period's defining political events and consequent social changes. This volume (first published in 1989) carries their story through the war in Algeria and the 1968 Paris student riots, while focusing on the life, crimes, and (ironic) redemption of misfit Charles-Victor, a sexual predator, sadist, and murderer whose outrageous excesses recall the exploits of Louis-Ferdinand CÇline's unforgettable misanthropes and monsters. Germain pitches her tale at a delirious expressionistic height that is, almost miraculously, sustained for more than 300 pages. Night of Amber and its equally brilliant predecessor together comprise one of the most remarkably inventive French fictions since the heyday of Mauriac, Sartre, and Camus. Read full book review >
THE BOOK OF NIGHTS by Sylvie Germain
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Nov. 1, 1993

Germain's sixth book is her first to appear in English: a poetic saga that sweeps its way through a century of French history by following the generations of a symbol-rich family. First in the publisher's new Verba Mundi series of modern-world literature. ``In those days the Peniels were still fresh-water people,'' begins the story, sometime before 1870 and the Franco-Prussian War. A riverman who captains a barge named The Mercy of God all but gives up on fatherhood before his wife Vitalie, following six stillbirths, delivers a fine boy—and the saga begins. Theodore- Faustin Peniel, soft of voice and shy of manner, will grow up, marry out of passionate love, have children, but then become changed forever when he's hideously deformed in the battle of Sedan. Madness, sorrow—and incestuous love with his own daughter- -will result in the birth of Victor-Flandrin, who because of a fleck of gold in his left eye is known as ``Night-of-Gold.'' In time, carrying with him seven tears wept by his father and the quivering light of his mother's shadow (which protects him even from a wolf), Victor-Flandrin settles in a farm village called Blackland—where he will have 15 children by five wives, and live through WW I (although a son won't) and WW II (although many, including a wife and children, won't) before his own humble and yet majestic death. Germain succumbs at times to a pseudo-biblical saga-style (``And their hearts in turn had taken root, even flowering like wild roses...''), or descends to a philosophic rudimentism (``Only the earth remained inalterably the same...''), but her genuine lyric and narrative powers—a bleeding birthmark, a tamed wolf, grievous deaths, miraculous loves—on balance keep her craft grandly asail. Sometimes short on inner energy, but, overall, a gloriously beautiful, gem-studded tapestry of human desire and suffering. Read full book review >