Murder in Byzantium: A Novel

Overview

In this absorbing, suspenseful novel Julia Kristeva combines social satire, medieval history, philosophy, psychoanalytic theory, and autobiography within a gruesome murder mystery. Murder in Byzantium deftly moves from eleventh-century Europe, wracked by the turbulence of the First Crusade, to the sun-dappled, cultural wasteland of present-day Santa Varvara, threatened by religious cults, gangs, and a serial killer on the loose.

This killer is murdering members of a dubious ...

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Overview

In this absorbing, suspenseful novel Julia Kristeva combines social satire, medieval history, philosophy, psychoanalytic theory, and autobiography within a gruesome murder mystery. Murder in Byzantium deftly moves from eleventh-century Europe, wracked by the turbulence of the First Crusade, to the sun-dappled, cultural wasteland of present-day Santa Varvara, threatened by religious cults, gangs, and a serial killer on the loose.

This killer is murdering members of a dubious religious sect, the New Pantheon, and leaving a mysterious figure eight drawn on their corpses. Meanwhile, Sebastian Chrest-Jones, a noted professor of human migrations, clandestinely writing a novel about the Byzantine princess-historian Anna Comnena, disappears on a quest to learn more about an ancestor who roamed across Europe to Byzantium during the First Crusade. Kristeva's recurring characters, detective Northrop Rilsky and the French journalist Stephanie Delacour, step in and desperately try to piece together the two-part mystery in the midst of their unexpected love affair.

In the tradition of Umberto Eco, Susan Sontag, and Ian McEwan, Kristeva skillfully weaves philosophical and critical ideas into her fiction. Peering into the mores, obsessions, and excesses of contemporary society, Kristeva offers an engrossing portrait of Santa Varvara, a paradoxical place of sunshine and pollution where skeletons lurk in the closets of politicians and oil company executives. Her descriptions of the First Crusade and the Byzantine Empire vividly evoke a distant past while speaking to such contemporary concerns as immigration, fundamentalism, terrorism, and the East-West divide. Murder in Byzantium is also the only work in which Kristeva explores her Bulgarian roots. In the midst of this rich, multilayered historical novel, Kristeva also presents three stunning, closely observed, and interlocking portraits of characters struggling with loss and emptiness in their personal histories and day-to-day lives.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Le Point
This is a novel of which we have not seen the like since Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose.

— Bernard-Henri Levy

Le Monde
Julia Kristeva gives us a stimulating, joyous book. In a word, a great Byzantine novel.

— Christine Rousseau

New Criminologist
This is no 'novel'....It is inflammatory, argumentative, ranting, full of history, prose suggestion, education... and a relay of truth.

— Tony Gurney

Globe and Mail

There are philosophical observations, trenchant comments and deep historical events in this book, but it's also a lot of old-fashioned fun.

— Margaret Cannon

Irish Times

It's a book chock-full of ideas and experiments.

The Independent Online Edition
Kristeva doesn't skimp on plot or suspense... Buy it for the Dan Brown fan in your life.

— Matt Thorne

The Liberal
Murder in Byzantium is an intriguing and bold venture... A real Kristevan joy ride.

— Adi Drori-Avraham

Globe & Mail
There are philosophical observations, trenchant comments and deep historical events in this book, but it's also a lot of old-fashioned fun.

— Margaret Cannon

Le Point - Bernard-Henri Levy

This is a novel of which we have not seen the like since Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose.

Le Monde - Christine Rousseau

Julia Kristeva gives us a stimulating, joyous book. In a word, a great Byzantine novel.

New Criminologist - Tony Gurney

This is no 'novel'....It is inflammatory, argumentative, ranting, full of history, prose suggestion, education... and a relay of truth.

Globe and Mail - Margaret Cannon

There are philosophical observations, trenchant comments and deep historical events in this book, but it's also a lot of old-fashioned fun.

The Independent Online Edition - Matt Thorne

Kristeva doesn't skimp on plot or suspense... Buy it for the Dan Brown fan in your life.

The Liberal - Adi Drori-Avraham

Murder in Byzantium is an intriguing and bold venture... A real Kristevan joy ride.

Publishers Weekly
In renowned French critic Kristeva's rambling historical mystery, Stephanie Delacour, a Paris journalist, goes to cover the hunt for a serial killer in the city of Santa Varvara, "the paradise of various mafia groups and sects," where she begins an affair with a police commissioner with the improbable if suggestive name of Northrop Rilsky. At this point, the reasonably promising story line gives way to musings and philosophical elaborations, most of which emanate from Prof. Sebastian Chrest-Jones, a historian secretly obsessed with a Byzantine princess. Some intriguing ideas about the First Crusade, language and foreigners come into view from time to time. Eventually, the narrative touches again on the serial killer, who appears to be focusing on members of a religious cult called the New Pantheon. With its somewhat slapdash ending, this ambitious, discursive book will appeal more to intellectuals than crime fans. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Intellectual mayhem, courtesy of renowned psychoanalyst-turned-mysterian Kristeva. Something is rotten in Santa Varvara, a place with a Greek name and a vaguely Balkan setting but that's full of French and English and other exotic types-for "everyone in Santa Varvara," our journalist/sleuth narrator tells us, "was a foreigner, if not personally then at least one or two generations back." The killer, who's at work dispatching members of the New Pantheon, who pledge allegiance to a certain Reverend Sun, is also a foreigner, a person of firm convictions: One is that the New Pantheon is a terrorist enterprise, another is that immigration, legal or no, is the root of all modern evil. Too bad for the jet-setting scholar Sebastian Chrest-Jones, who by day is a professor of what might be called migration studies and who, the hard-hearted terminator called Number Eight reasons, is a hypocrite for having built an academic cult around multiculturalism and immigrants' rights. Unbeknown to most of Santa Varvara, Sebastian-bearing a good Byzantine Greek name, as do most of the principal figures-is an amateur medievalist and historical novelist who has been puzzling out the Byzantine past and has solved a few mysteries along the way. Stephanie Delacour, our heroine, a journalist with a heart of tobacco-wreathed gold and a yearning for a decidedly un-Clouseau-ish old cop named Rilsky, would rather be under the dome of Hagia Sophia herself: "A foreigner and a woman, I know that I come from Byzantium, a place that has never existed with any credible reality except in my soul." Reality can be a brutal place, though, and in between philosophical meditations on fundamentalism, immigration, political violenceand such, Kristeva (Hannah Arendt, 2001, etc.) has a good time bumping off the deserving, and even a few innocents, while keeping a taut tale moving along nicely. Readers will enjoy this concoction, which falls squarely in the Eco/Perez-Reverte tradition of mystery with a moral. Very well done.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231136372
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Julia Kristeva is a renowned psychoanalyst, critic, and professor of linguistics at the Université de Paris VII. She is the author of many acclaimed works and novels, including The Samurai, The Old Man and the Wolves, and Possessions, and is the recipient of the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought and the Holberg International Memorial Prize.C. Jon Delogu is professor of English at the Université de Lyon III-Jean Moulin.

Columbia University Press

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