These Festive Nights
Written by Marie-Claire Blais
Translated by Sheila Fischman
Originally published in 1995 under the title Soifs, the first novel in Marie-Claire Blais’ masterful series won the Governor General’s Award for French Fiction and was hailed by critics around the world as a tour de force, comparing Blais to such literary greats as Virginia Woolf, Dante, Sophocles, and Shakespeare. In this dazzling rendering, These Festive Nights, celebrated translator Sheila Fischman brings Blais’ novel to life for English-speaking readers.
A sun-drenched paradise in the Gulf of Mexico surrounded by the glimmering blue sea; Renata is convalescing on this island poised between two worlds: between great wealth and extreme poverty, between the past and an uncertain future, between the beauty of the world and the horrors of history.
During her time here, Renata becomes tormented by thirst — for justice, for pleasure, for intoxication — while all around her, festivities are going on in join celebration of the birth of baby Vincent and the end of the twentieth century. Over the course of three days and three nights a flock of characters assembles: wealthy, poor, writers, artists facing their own mortality, children immersed in innocent games, young men dying of AIDS, refugees, the Ku Klux Klan — an entire spectrum of humanity is depicted in the grip of doubt and suffering. In this swirling, baroque fresco, Marie-Claire Blais captures the essence of our apocalyptic age, rendering it in powerfully evocative prose.
Marie-Claire Blais is the internationally revered author of more than twenty-five books, many of which have been published around the world. In addition to the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction, which she has won four times, Blais has been awarded the Gilles-Corbeil Prize, the Médicis Prize, the Molson Prize, and Guggenheim Fellowships. She divides her time between Quebec and Florida.
Sheila Fischman is the preeminent translator of French fiction in Canada. She has won the Governor General’s Literary Award as well as the Félix Antoine-Savard Prize.
Praise for Marie-Claire Blais and These Festive Nights: “Marie-Claire Blais’s best, and without a doubt, the richest and most impressive tableau d’époque I have read in a long time. . . . Blais has modestly, generously, written The Divine Comedy of our time.” — Le Devoir “[These Festive Nights] resounds with what has become a Blais leitmotif: the spiritual thirst born of hardship, and the hunger for redemption in a brutal world.” — The Gazette “[In These Festive Nights] Marie-Claire Blais appeals to the best part of who we are. It’s a book that we finish reluctantly and with a deep sense of gratitude for the characters who, like the heroes of Sophocles and Shakespeare, are the messengers of a hidden truth of fundamental concern to the human heart.” — Magazine Littéraire