The Violins of Saint-Jacques (NYRB Classics) (Paperback)
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"Mr. Fermor's elegant rococo fantasy about a volcanic eruption on an imaginary Caribbean island is just close enough to reality to raise a genuine shiver--possibly even a genuine tear. In truth, it is a small timeless masterpiece."--Phoebe Lou Adams, The Atlantic
An NYRB Classics Original
Patrick Leigh Fermor’s only novel displays the same lustrous way with words as his beloved travel trilogy (A Time of Gifts, Between the Woods and the Water, and The Broken Road), the memoir of his youthful walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. This slim book starts with the
meeting of an English traveler and an enigmatic elderly Frenchwoman on an Aegean island. He is captivated by her painting of a busy Caribbean port in the shadow of a volcano, which leads her to tell him the story of her childhood in that town back at the beginning of the twentieth century. The tale she unfolds, set in the tropical luxury of the island of Saint-Jacques, is one of romantic intrigue and decadence involving the descendants of slaves and a fading French aristocracy. Then, on the night of the annual Mardi Gras ball, a whole world comes to a catastrophic and haunting end.
About the Author
Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915–2011) was an intrepid traveler and a heroic soldier who is widely considered to be one of the finest travel writers of the twentieth century. After his stormy school days, followed by the walk across Europe to Constantinople that begins in A Time of Gifts (1977) and continues through Between the Woods and the Water (1986) and The Broken Road (published posthumously in 2013), he lived and traveled in the Balkans and the Greek archipelago. His books A Time to Keep Silence (1957), Mani (1958) and Roumeli (1966) attest to his deep interest in languages and remote places. In the Second World War he joined the Irish Guards, became a liaison officer in Albania, and fought in Greece and Crete. He was awarded the DSO and OBE. Leigh Fermor lived partly in Greece—in the house he designed with his wife, Joan, in an olive grove in the Mani—and partly in Worcestershire. In 2004 he was knighted for his services to literature and to British–Greek relations. Artemis Cooper’s biography, Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure, was published by New York Review Books in 2013.
James Campbell is the author of several works of nonfiction, including Invisible Country: A Journey Through Scotland, Exiled in Paris: Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Samuel Beckett and Others on the Left Bank, and Syncopations: Beats, New Yorkers, and Writers in the Dark. He writes the weekly NB column in the Times Literary Supplement under the pen name J.C.
"Mr. Fermor’s elegant rococo fantasy about a volcanic eruption on an imaginary Caribbean island is just close enough to reality to raise a genuine shiver—possibly even a genuine tear. In truth, it is a small timeless masterpiece." —Phoebe Lou Adams, The Atlantic
"The only work of fiction by Patrick “Paddy” Leigh Fermor (the decorated war hero, admired travel writer and stylist) is doubly a period piece. Written and first published just over half a century ago, in 1953, its main action is set another half-century before that, in 1902. It is also, in its way, a masterpiece...There is more than a hint of mischief, and indeed humour, about Paddy’s nostalgia for a lost world, and its ethereal afterglow that lives on in the violins of the title." —Roderick Beaton, Times Literary Supplement
"A sojourn in the Caribbean inspired a travel book and a novella, set in 1902 on an island in the Antilles, about love and intrigue in the over-blown and over-mannered society of the French aristocracy...The Violins of Saint-Jacques is a masterpiece in the minor mode." —Brian Vintcent, The Globe and Mail
"[The Violins of Saint-Jacques] brings alive the glamour and the passions of the planters in their heyday. This tale of a whole rich island being destroyed by a volcanic eruption in the middle of a splendid planters’ ball is based on the true story of the annihilation in 1902." —Robin Hanbury-Tension, The Telegraph
"The Violins of Saint Jacques, filled with lush imagery and elaborate historical reconstruction, deserves to be more widely known." —James Ferguson, Caribbean Beat
"A haunting threnody for a vanished world as the sole survivor remembers the glow and decadence of the Mardi Gras balls on the night when her Caribbean island was destroyed by a volcanic eruption." —The Observer