Silk

Silk

by Alessandro Baricco, Ann Goldstein
4.5 24

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Overview

Silk by Alessandro Baricco

The year is 1861. Hervé Joncour is a French merchant of silkworms, who combs the known world for their gemlike eggs. Then circumstances compel him to travel farther, beyond the edge of the known, to a country legendary for the quality of its silk and its hostility to foreigners: Japan.

There Joncour meets a woman. They do not touch; they do not even speak. And he cannot read the note she sends him until he has returned to his own country. But in the moment he does, Joncour is possessed.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307490957
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/10/2008
Series: Vintage International
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 351,277
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Alessandro Baricco was born in Turin in 1958.  He is the author of two previous novels, Castelli di rabbia, which won the Prix Médicis in France and the Selezione Campiello prize in Italy, and Ocean-Sea, which won the Viareggio and Palazzo del Bosco prizes.  He has also written essays in the field of musicology.  Silk became an immediate bestseller in Italy and has been translated into twenty-seven languages.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

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Silk 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My normal topics to read involve international business affairs. I was so shocked by the emotion in this book I forced my boyfriend to read it. If you are a romantic this is a read for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Roland_Keller More than 1 year ago
Those who gave this book a low rating don't get it. Throw those out and read the other reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
PatriciaJL More than 1 year ago
Like many books that are turned into movies, I feel compelled to read the book first. I read this book in a matter of hours - of course the size of the book lends to that but also the way the writing flows sucks you into the story. Set in 1861, Alessandra Baricco takes you the Orient and introduces intriguing characters and plots. Baricco also fills his book with strong emotional imagery that comes across as poetry while at the same time using simple and direct words without embellishment. At first I didn't understand why Joncour became so obsessed with a woman, a concubine, he never even spoke to. Then I learned that "obsession" was not the right word to use to describe his overwhelming feelings about this woman. This book leaves you with a sense sense that Joncour felt he was never able to live to his fullest potential. Even though he is able to find a calm peace with his wife, Helene, and the life they create at home, his world is soon rocked when he receives a letter full of Japanese symbols that he believes is from this 'soul mate'. Unfortuantely, there are really no words that can describe the way this books left me feeling. You just have to read the book and find out how it ends......
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songcatchers More than 1 year ago
Silk is an emotional and affecting story of love and it's hold on Frenchmen Herve Joncour. "This startling, sensual, hypnotically compelling novel tells a story of adventure, sexual enthrallment, and a love so powerful that it unhinges a man's life." Herve spends years traveling back and forth from his home in France to Japan. He risks his life smuggling silkworms out of Japan in the 1860's, a time when foreigners were not welcome on Japanese soil. He travels back and forth between the two women he loves. His devoted wife Helene in France and a woman in Japan who is beyond his reach; he has never even heard the sound of her voice. Silk is a beautiful story written very gracefully. Allessandro Baricco writes a moving tale and paints a very vivid picture by using surprisingly few words. "The same spell will envelop anyone who reads Silk, a work that has the compression of a fable, the evocative detail of the greatest historical fiction, and the devastating erotic force of a dream."
Guest More than 1 year ago
Alessandro Baricco's SILK is a rare extended poem or aria of a novel. The author's background as a musicologist is evident in the way he fashions his tale of sensuality and eroticism: statements are made only to be repeated verbatim later in the story of four excursions to Japan as though having said it once merely requires a reprise moments of visual senses and responses are in fragments, like breaths inhaling and exhaling the unspeakable quality of beauty and desire the 'chapters' are brief, often one page in length, like an aside to the reader. It is a hauntingly beautiful song and Baricco composes it well (the translation from the original Italian by Ann Goldstein is equally as sensitive). Hervé Joncour is a silkworm merchant living in 1861 France in a town Lavilledieu whose wealth is dependent on the silk manufactured form the eggs and hatched larvae of the silkworm. He is married to Hélène Joncour, a beautiful wife who allows her husband to make trips to far away lands to support the town industry. They are a happy couple, hoping for a child. Baldabiou is a businessman who encourages Joncour to travel to the then dangerous Japan to gather silkworm eggs not infected with the disease that threatens local eggs. Joncour sets out to Japan, a long journey through Europe, Russia, Siberia, and China to a Japanese village Shirakawa where he meets he chieftain Hara Kei - but more importantly, where he first encounters the gaze of a nameless beautiful woman - a girl with eyes not the shape of Oriental eyes - who appears to be a mistress of Hara Kei. That exchanged gaze, wordless, leads to the obsessive infatuation that rules Joncour's life. The story repeatedly visits this moment and the clandestine 'love' that occurs between the two. How Joncour and Hélène and Baldabiou and Hara Kei weave in and out of this silken fantasy provides the quiet yet operatic dénouement for this whisper of a story. Baricco manages to teach us about the silk industry, about the politics of the time, and about the East/West relationships with succinct means. But the greater challenge of the book is the relating of the erotic dream that is as elusive as the strands of silk that start it all. This is a novella (an extended poem) to be re-read many times, not only for the story but also for the magic of the author's unique writing. Highly recommended. Grady Harp
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lyrical...mesmerizing...beautiful...and unforgettable!
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I read the summary I was instantly intrigued, so I bought the book right away. But when I started reading it I was surprised at the simplicity of how it was written. I believe its simplicity, the haiku-like way it was written, was one of the things that I found charming about the book. It is different and haunting, in a sense that anyone who has started reading would instantly be pulled in without even realizing it. A truly memorable story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A wonderful little book, beautiful tale full of poetry.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I red the book in its original language and should reccommand it to everyone! (I'm a dutch-speeking belgian). The strenght between the 'pain and sorrow of imposible desire' at one side and the boring everyday existense at the other, is wonderfull described by Alessandro Baricco. The compensation by creating an artfull garden is marvelous!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was wandering around, looking at books, and happened upon this one. I don't regret the choice at all!! I would recomend this book to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Silk, by Alessandro Baricco, is the story of Hervé Joncour, a French silk breeder living in the small town of Lavilledieu. In 1861, when epidemics were striking the hatcheries of Europe, Joncour began to travel to Syria and Egypt to acquire healthy eggs for the town. When his friend, Baldabiou tells his of the extraordinary silk produced in Japan, Joncour embarks on the first of four journeys to what then was determined to be 'the end of the world.' Traveling by train, horseback, and ship, Joncour always takes the same route and always deals with an enigmatic man named Hara Kei, 'the most elusive man in Japan, master of all that the world contrived to carry off the island.' But more important to Joncour than Hara Kei is Hara Kei's concubine, a young girl, of which we learn nothing, excpept that 'her eyes did not have an Oriental slant.' Even though they do not touch and do not speak, Joncour, a true romantic, falls instantly in love with this strange and beautiful girl and comes to believe that his love is returned, although by his fourth and final trip to Japan, he does resign himself to the fact that she will remain forever out of his reach. Civil was in Japan has torn Hara Kei's village apart and Joncour returns to Lavilledieu and to his faithful and loving wife Hélène, resigned that 'in the whole world there was nothing beautiful left.' Now a wealthy man, Joncour settles down to life in Lavilledieu with Hélène util the arrival of a letter, posted in Belgium, arrives. Written entirely in Japanese, Joncour believes it looks 'like a catalogue of the footprints of little birds, fantastically meticulous in its compilation.' When the letter is finally translated, Joncour learns the earth-shattering truth, truth he should have known all along, and his life, as well as the lives of others, are shown to be nothing more than a heart-breaking string of missed opportunities and the vulnerability of assumptions. What is most powerful in Silk is not what is said, but what is left unsaid. The book is highly stylized and enigmatic. We are never given any details about Hara Kei's concubine, Joncour's journeys to the East, or Hélène's feelings about her husband. Yet, I find I must disagree with those reviewers who criticized the book as containing little character development. I felt the characters were developed most excellently and by the book's end, I felt I had come to know most of them and was certainly able to identify with their plight. And, although the writing is lyrical, with strong undercurrents of eroticism throughout, it is both ephemeral and spare. It is most definitely prose and not poetry. Much in this book is reiterative narration, leading us to believe that nothing that happens in Japan upsets the calm day-to-day existence of Joncour and his wife in Lavilledieu. Even late in his life, Joncour spends his days 'with a liturgy of habits that succeeded in warding off sadness.' Silk is a small, slim book, but one that packs a lifetime of experience between its covers. It is a stylistic tour de force, a haunting haiku, and a heart-breaking allegory of life as a quest, ultimately unfulfilled. In short, it is a masterpiece of love and loss that is well worth reading time and time again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Give yourself and hour to read this book and a week to get over it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Upon reading the synopsis of this novel, I was pretty confident that I was in for a literary treat. However, my opinion changed as I was reading it. If you're a reader who likes to know what the characters are feeling and thinking as the story unfolds, this book's not for you. The characters have an odd detachment from one another, a detachment which appears so blantant, that I didn't care where they ended up by the end of the novel. Skip it, you're not missing a thing.