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Monday January 23, 2012 in Books


By Martine Desjardins
Translated by Fred A. Reed & David Homel

Martine Desjardins delivers to readers of Maleficium the unexpurgated revelations of Vicar Jerome Savoie, a heretic priest in nineteenth century Montreal. Braving threats from the Catholic Church, Savoie dares to violate the sanctity of the confessional in this confession-within- a-confession, in which seven penitents, each afflicted with a debilitating malady or struck with a crippling deformity, relates his encounter with an enigmatic young woman whose lips bear a striking scar.

As these men penetrate deep into the exotic Orient, each falls victim to his own secret vice. One treks through Ethiopia in search of wingless locusts. Another hunts for fly-whisks among the clove plantations of Zanzibar. Yet others bargain for saffron in a Srinagar bazaar, search for the rarest frankincense and pursue the coveted hawksbill turtle in the Sea of Oman. Two more seek the formula for sabon Nablus in Palestine or haggle over Persian carpets in the royal gardens of Shiraz. The men’s individual forms of punishment, revealed through the agency of the young woman, are wrought upon their bodies.

Baroque in its complexity, Kafka-like in its inexorable mechanics, Maleficium by turns astonishes, amuses and beguiles. Then author Martine Desjardins’s Vicar Savoie—as in any confession worth its communion wafer—saves the best (or worst) for last.

Maleficium won the Prix Jacques Brossard and was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award (French Fiction), the Prix des libraires du Québec, the Prix des cinq continents de la Francophonie and the Prix France–Québec.

ISBN 13: 9780889226807 | ISBN 10: 889226903
5.5 W x 8.5 H inches | 160 pages
$14.95 CAN / $14.95 US
Rights: World
Backlist | Fiction | Bisac: FIC019000
1 Edition


“The collection of confessions takes a deliciously strange approach to remembering and retelling the past. In an unexpected twist near the end, an eighth perspective adds compelling backstory and transports readers to new terrain altogether.”
Quill & Quire

"The stories in Maleficium are bizarre and bold. Quebec’s Martine Desjardins paints the Orient and its temptations in sensuous detail and frames her travellers’ tales with the church confessional. Ingenious!"
—Katherine Govier

“Lust, greed, retribution, and shame – Maleficium reads like a flesh-bound catalogue of my favourite sins. Desjardins skillfully blends the repulsive with the erotic to craft stories that rise from the past and perfume the air with incense and magic. An intensely pleasurable work that builds, tale by exotic tale, to a dark climax. Forgive me, Father: I loved it.”
—Jenn Farrell

“[Martine Desjardins] has dared to write a book unlike any other, dipping her pen in the ink of a bygone day, before nature and its mysteries had been deciphered; when desire loomed with dark and frightening power. The result is an extraordinary festival of the senses.”

Maleficium is an orgiastic celebration of our five senses … Drawing on explorers’ diaries, medical reference manuals, entomological textbooks and reference works on the varying professions of those who have confided their secret sins to their parish priest, the novel at the same time impressions the reader with its rigorous attention to detail.”
Le Libraire


Winner of the 2013 Sunburst Award
Winner of the 2010 Prix Jacques Brossard
Finalist for the 2010 Governor General’s Literary Award (French Fiction)
Finalist for the 2010 Prix des libraires du Québec
Finalist for the 2010 Prix des cinq continents de la Francophonie
Finalist for the 2010 Prix France–Québec

About the Contributors

Martine Desjardins

Martine Desjardins was born in the Town of Mount Royal, Quebec, in 1957. She worked as an assistant editor-in-chief at ELLE Québec magazine for four years before leaving to devote herself to writing. Her first novel, Le cercle de Clara, was published by Leméac in 1997, and was nominated for both the Prix littéraires du Québec and the Grand prix des lectrices de ELLE Québec in 1998. Desjardins currently lives in the Town of Mount Royal. In her free time, she paints miniature models of ruins overgrown with vegetation.

Fred A. Reed

International journalist and award-winning literary translator Fred A. Reed is also a respected specialist on politics and religion in the Middle East. Reed is a three-time winner of the Governor General’s Award for translation.

David Homel

Award-winning author and literary translator David Homel also works as a journalist, editor and screenwriter.

[The Green Chamber cover]
The Green Chamber

Martine Desjardins
Translated by Fred A. Reed & David Homel

Maleficium cover

Martine Desjardins
Translated by Fred A. Reed & David Homel

A Covenant of Salt

Martine Desjardins
Translated by Fred A. Reed & David Homel

All That Glitters

Martine Desjardins
Translated by Fred A. Reed & David Homel

Fairy Ring

Martine Desjardins
Translated by Fred A. Reed & David Homel

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