Julia Kristeva's dazzling fictional debut is an intellectual adventure, full of vitality, sensuousness, and sustained lyricism. Reminiscent of The Mandarins, Simone de Beauvoir's 1954 masterpiece, The Samurai brilliantly reconstructs a pivotal era of postwar French history - Paris in the late 1960s - and at the same time records the political disillusionment and ferment of a generation. In a brisk narrative spanning three continents, the novel follows an array of passionate and promiscuous intellectual warriors -...
Julia Kristeva's dazzling fictional debut is an intellectual adventure, full of vitality, sensuousness, and sustained lyricism. Reminiscent of The Mandarins, Simone de Beauvoir's 1954 masterpiece, The Samurai brilliantly reconstructs a pivotal era of postwar French history - Paris in the late 1960s - and at the same time records the political disillusionment and ferment of a generation. In a brisk narrative spanning three continents, the novel follows an array of passionate and promiscuous intellectual warriors - the "samurai" for whom "writing is the only lasting act of pleasure and war combined." Readers will instantly recognize finely sketched and often searing portraits of some of this century's most influential minds: Lacan, Derrida, Barthes, Althusser, and many others. With an authorial voice that modulates between the erotic and the meditative, the ironic and the rancorous, The Samurai moves from Paris to Mao's China - where revolutionary idealism collides with cold pragmatism - to New York and back to Paris. Over a twenty-five year period, the characters experience countless battles involving love, depression, maternity, and disease, while the various themes of the text - language, prison, madness, emotional ruptures - are brought to fruition with astounding insight. Kristeva's contributions to psychoanalysis, semiotics, and literary theory have earned her widespread international acclaim. Already published to positive reviews in France, this is a novel whose enormous energy derives from the juxtaposition of vital ideas set on a broad historical canvas. Fluid and captivating, The Samurai brilliantly illuminates both the constantly shifting terrain of human relationships and the manifold psychological entanglements of the Left Bank intellectuals. The result is a novel that will enhance Kristeva's stature as one of our most versatile and creative thinkers.
In a quote on the cover of Kristeva's first novel, Elaine Showalter equates the Bulgarian-born critic and psychoanalyst with Simone de Beauvoir. Like de Beauvoir, Kristeva was at the center of an intellectual movement, and like de Beauvoir she has written a roman a clef about French intellectuals, the ``brave samurai . . . fueled by an extreme of tension, an expenditure of energy, that may threaten one's vital equilibrium.'' Unfortunately, an ``extreme of tension'' does not fuel this novel, which by all rights should be a gripping account from the intellectual front. As an integral part of the magazine Tel Quel (she was married to its editor, Phillipe Sollers), Kristeva knew firsthand the likes of Barthes, Derrida, Foucault and Lacan--all of whom appear here. But no matter how often Kristeva writes ``what you say is marvelous,'' no character--not even her fictional stand-in, Olga--is as compelling to the reader as they evidently were to the writer. The image left by Kristeva's account of the various intellectual posturings--through Paris, China and the U. S.; through love, adultery, sex and even childbirth--is one of self-congratulatory narcissists unimpeded by any real concern for enlightenment. (Oct.)
Kristeva combines her knowledge of psychoanalysis, politics, and linguistics in this novel about the leftist intelligentsia of Paris in the late 1960s. Olga, a young scholar from Eastern Europe, becomes involved in the literary circle and falls in love with its leader, Herve Sinteuil. Others in the circle are modeled after well-known scholars. They participate in student riots, visit China, and live somewhat decadent lives. The title identifies them as modern counterparts of the Japanese warriors who also were poets and calligraphers and who were completely willing to face death in order to experience everything. Both sensual and brilliantly written, this novel is full of ideas and will appeal to thinkers. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-- Ann Irvine, Montgomery Cty. P.L., Md.
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.