$22.00 $16.50
  • Hardcover
  • 224
  • September 1999
  • 9781583220115


Jacqueline Harpman

Translated by Ros Schwartz

One afternoon in a Paris train station, as 35-year-old literature professor Aline Berger struggles to re-read Virginia Woolf's Orlando, a novel she has never enjoyed, an odd feeling comes over her when a handsome but strange young man asks her for aspirin. Haunted by the harsh words of her domineering mother, who demanded that she suppress her tomboyish tendencies during her childhood, Aline has become a demure, passive, conventional woman. She fails to recognize the man standing before her, who the author names Orlanda. The body belongs to that of Lucien Lèfrene, a lithe 20-year-old rock journalist, but it is inhabited by her once silenced spirit, and possesses her knowledge, memories, and desires, including her love of men.

When the two meet again in Belgium, Aline subconsciously sheds her prim tendencies for more assertive behavior, as she begins to understand that the audacious and lively Orlanda was born from her psyche. The more time the two spend together, the less time they can stand to be apart.

Winner of the Prix Meacutedicis, this lyrical novel, which recalls the erudition and imagination of Michael Cunningham's The Hours and Patricia Duncker's Hallucinating Foucault, is a stunning evocation of a woman who is forced to confront every part of her soul, and embrace herself whole.


"A twisting, teasing exploration of sexuality, inner motives and desires … Harpman cleverly manipulates an elusive narrative 'I' and shifting perspectives in cool, insouciant, yet seductive style, to attack the well-worn existentialist query, 'Who am I?'" —Publishers Weekly

About Jacqueline Harpman

JACQUELINE HARPMAN (1929–2012) was born in Etterbeek, Belgium. Being half Jewish, the family moved to Casablanca when the Nazis invaded, and returned home after the war. After studying French literature she started training to be a doctor, but could not complete her medical studies when she contracted tuberculosis. She turned to writing in 1954 and her first work was published in 1958. In 1980 she qualified as a psychoanalyst. She had given up writing after her fourth book was published, and resumed her career as a novelist only some twenty years later. She wrote over 15 novels and won several literary prizes, including the Médicis for Orlanda.

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