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The Book of Nights by Sylvie Germain

The Book of Nights (1985)

by Sylvie Germain

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NON est mon nom

NON NON le nom


René Daumal Le Contre-Ciel
And the angel of the lord said unto him:

Wherefore askest thou after my name,

seeing it is wonderful.

Judges, 13, xviii
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
The Book of Nights is an ambitious and enormously powerful first novel which brought its thirty-one year old author overnight literary fame and critical adulation.

We experience one hundred years of French history, and three Franco-Prussian conflicts through the lives of the Peniel family. Sylvie Germain blends history with fantastic and irrational happenings in the manner of One Hundred Years of Solitude. She creates a magically bizarre universe around the patriarch of the family, nicknamed Night-of-Gold-Wolf-Face and his fifteen children, each distinguished by a gold speck in their left eye.

The grotesque and the bizarre are never far away in a book full of deeply moving events and great suffering. The effects of the carnage and the inhumanity of war upon this peasant family become ever more devastating, culminating in the holocaust of the Second World War.

This is a novel on an epic scale, with the emotional intensity of a Greek tragedy in which life triumphs over the horrors of war and the power of death. The reader is never in any doubt that The Book of Nights is a masterpiece and that in Sylvie Germain France has an author to rank with Borges, Calvino and Gabriel Garcia Marquez as one of the great writers of magic realism.

-- publisher's blurb
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0879239751, Hardcover)

The Book of Nights marks the American debut of one of Europe's most powerful and celebrated young writers. Winner of six literary prizes, The Book of Nights combines the timeless power of medieval legend, the resonance of Greek tragedy, and the harsh immediacy of a newsreel.
Sylvie Germain traces a century in the life of the Peniel family, and especially of the Victor-Flandrin Peniel (nicknamed Night-of-gold-Wolf-face because of the hereditary gold fleck in the eye). It is Victor-Flandrin-larger than life yet fully human-who acts as focal point for the intertwined stories of the Peniels (including Victor's four wives and fifteen children); of their lovers and enemies; and of the endless cycle of birth and death, triumph and loss, madness and passion, eroticism and holocaust-from the Franco-Prussian War to World War II-that envelops and buffets their lives. Blending the historical with the supernatural, the comic with the grotesque, the lyrical and the brutal, Sylvie Germain tells the story of humanity's strivings and vanity, of the profound injustices that govern our relations, and of the fundamental strength that allows us ultimately to triumph over carnage and degradation. The Book of Nights is a "powerfully, deeply felt, imaginative" book (The Times Literary Supplement) by a fresh and compelling new voice.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:35 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

'The book of nights' is a masterpiece. Germain is endowed with extraordinary narrative and descriptive abilities ... She excels in portraits of emotional intensity and the gritty realism of raw emotions gives the novel its unique power.

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