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Monday January 23, 2012 in Books
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
Backlist | Fiction | Bisac: FIC019000
QUOTES OF NOTE
"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!"
“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.”
“[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.”
“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
Winner of the 2013 Sunburst Award
Winner of the Prix Jacques Brossard
Finalist for the 2010 Governor General’s Literary Award (French Fiction)
Finalist for the Prix des libraires du Québec
Finalist for the Prix des cinq continents de la Francophonie
Finalist for the Prix France–Québec
About the ContributorsMartine Desjardins
Martine Desjardins was born in the Town of Mount Royal, Quebec, in 1957. The second child of six, she started writing short stories when she was seventeen. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Russian and Italian studies at the University of Montreal, she went on to complete a master’s degree in comparative literature, exploring humour in Dostoevsky’s The Devils. She worked as an assistant editor-in-chief at ELLE Québec magazine for four years before leaving to devote herself to writing. Presently she works as a freelance rewriter, translator and journalist for L’actualité, an award-winning French-language current affairs magazine in Canada. 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 with her husband. 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. After several years as a librarian and trade union activist at the Montreal Gazette, Reed began reporting from Islamic Iran in 1984, visiting the Islamic Republic thirty times since then. He has also reported extensively on Middle Eastern affairs for La Presse, CBC Radio-Canada and Le Devoir. 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. He was born in Chicago in 1952 but left at the end of the tumultuous 1960s and continued his education in Europe and Toronto before settling in Montreal in 1980. He worked at a variety of industrial jobs before beginning to write fiction in the mid-1980s. His nine novels to date have been translated into several languages and published around the world.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF); and the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council for our publishing activities.