The Old Man and the Wolves: A Novel


Publishers Weekly

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Publishers Weekly

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Kristeva, a French linguistics professor and psychoanalyst who writes on semiotics and literature (Desire in Language), has built a postmodern parable around the polarities of inertia and action, conformism and individuality, barbarism and civilization. When elusive wolves invade the passive Eastern European seaside resort of Santa Varvara, people disappear by the thousands or are transmogrified into wolves. Only the Latin professor known as ``the Old Man'' seems to notice the animals' existence and dares speak out about the spreading evil. Soon, Parisian journalist Stephanie Delacour, who narrates most of the novel, arrives and stumbles onto a possible murder. A sadistic army surgeon who reveres Hitler, Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein may have killed his wife, historian Alba Ram, who is a devotee of Imperial Rome's decadence. A drowned woman-Alba or her double-is dredged up from a lake, but then Delacour receives a letter from Alba, revealing that she has been drugging her tyrannical husband and plans to poison him. Meanwhile, someone has disconnected the Old Man's artificial lung; his resulting death prompts Delacour, his former pupil, to confront her unresolved emotions over the death of her father. Kristeva's experimental novel is an iridescent gem glinting with psychoanalytic speculations, shards of myth and classical lore and musings on death, hate, love and the imagination. (Dec.)
Library Journal
The town of Santa Varvara, seen through the eyes of the Professor of Latin, Septicius Clarus (also known as The Old Man), is a place where values are changing. Septicius sees the purveyors of evil as wolves, arguing that they are destroying the moral fiber of the people. He watches with despair as his student Alba becomes involved with one of the wolves and is unable to extricate herself. The story is told by a journalist friend of Alba who sets out to write a political commentary and finds herself unraveling a mystery while also analyzing her feelings about her father. Kristeva is obviously drawing on her extensive background in psychology to present a fable that indicts current society in its commercialism, selfishness, and disregard for the humanities. She writes with great moral intent, but many lay readers of this somewhat contrived tale will not grasp all of the psychiatric overlay. For academic and large public libraries.-Ann Irvine, Montgomery Cty. P.L., Md.
Of certain interest to enthusiasts of Kristeva's work and those interested in French intellectual culture, this tale is part detective story, part philosophical fable which takes place in the mythical, post-industrial landscape of Santa Varvara in Eastern Europe. When mysterious wolves descend on the town and people begin to disappear, one lone individual attempts to warn the town of the ominous reality and is dismissed by everyone except a young journalist whose detective work turns into a provocative personal journey. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231080200
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 12/15/1994
  • Pages: 183
  • Product dimensions: 6.29 (w) x 9.33 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Julia Kristeva, internationally known psychoanalyst and critic, is Professor of Linguistics at the University de Paris VII. She has hosted a French television series and is the author of many critically acclaimed books published by Columbia University Press in translation, including Time and Sense: Proust and the Experience of Literature and the novel, Possessions.

Columbia University Press

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