This compelling story of Bertrande de Rols is a rich novella with the timeless power of a fable. It was based on a famous story of a court case in mid-16th century France.Janet Lewis depicts a distant time and a traditional, rural culture based on a highly ordered patriarchal structure. When "Martin Guerre" returns from a quest after eight years, the family embraces him, and Bertrande is swept up in the relief at the apparent return to the security of the old order.But Martin has changed, and Bertrande threatens the established order with her defiant quest for the truth. Once the accusation of false identity is laid formally and the trial process begins. Many witnesses are called. Bertrande is pressured to withdraw, and she herself is reluctant to see "Martin" executed.Finally, the real, battle-weary Martin stumbles into the courtroom and is instantly recognized. He shows no mercy to Bertrande for allowing herself to be deceived. The real facts emerge, but the fate of Bertrande and Martin remains open-ended.
In this new edition of Janet Lewis’s classic short novel, The Wife of Martin Guerre, Swallow Press executive editor Kevin Haworth writes that Lewis’s story is a short novel of astonishing depth and resonance, a sharply drawn historical tale that asks contemporary questions about identity and belonging, about men and women, and about an individual’s capacity to act within an inflexible system.” Originally published in 1941, The Wife of Martin Guerre has earned the respect and admiration of critics and readers for over sixty years.
Based on a notorious trial in sixteenth-century France, this story of Bertrande de Rols is the first of three novels making up Lewis’s Cases of Circumstantial Evidence suite (the other two are The Trial of Sören Qvist and The Ghost of Monsieur Scarron).
Swallow Press is delighted and honored to offer readers beautiful new editions of all three Cases of Circumstantial Evidence novels, each featuring a new introduction by Kevin Haworth.
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Janet Lewis wrote many books of poetry and historical fiction, including The Wife of Martin Guerre. She was married to the poet and critic Yvor Winters. Janet Lewis died in 1998 at the age of 99.
Janet Lewis was a novelist, poet, and short-story writer whose literary career spanned almost the entire twentieth century. The New York Times has praised her novels as some of the 20th century’s most vividly imagined and finely wrought literature.” Born and educated in Chicago, she lived in California for most of her adult life and taught at both Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. Her works include The Wife of Martin Guerre (1941), The Trial of Sören Qvist (1947), The Ghost of Monsieur Scarron (1959), Good-Bye, Son and Other Stories (1946), and Poems Old and New (1982).
One of the most significant short novels in English.”
Lewis wrote her vibrant novella in 1941 as the first in her Cases of Circumstantial Evidence trilogy, which Swallow Press has brought back into print. The mystery here is not Martin’s identity, but why Janet Lewis remains obscure.”
Flaubertian in the elegance of its form and the gravity of its style.”
The New Yorker
Ohio University Press/Swallow Press is reissuing all three novels in Lewis’s Cases of Circumstantial Evidence series in new editions with fancy new covers. They’re gorgeous.”
The Book Haven
One of (the short novel’s) most perfect examples is Janet Lewis’s The Wife of Martin Guerre.”
Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
When the literary history of the second millennium is written at the end of the third, in the category of dazzling American short fiction (Janet Lewis’s) Wife of Martin Guerre will be regarded as the 20th century's Billy Budd and Janet Lewis will be ranked with Herman Melville.”
New York Times
A relentless and draining novel sans merci, all the way to its ruthless end.”
The Book Haven
The Wife of Martin Guerre by Janet Lewis is one of the most resonant short novels I can remember. I greatly like two other books she wrote: The Trial of Soren Qvist and The Ghost of Monsieur Scarron. She never got the attention she deserved.”
Evan S. Connell, Jr.
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