Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Weeping Woman
on the Streets of Prague

Sylvie Germain

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase X

Title: The Weeping Woman on the Streets of Prague
Author: Sylvie Germain
Genre: Novel
Written: 1992 (Eng. 1993)
Length: 127 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The Weeping Woman on the Streets of Prague - US
The Weeping Woman on the Streets of Prague - UK
The Weeping Woman on the Streets of Prague - Canada
La pleurante des rues de Prague - Canada
La pleurante des rues de Prague - France
Die weinende Frau in den Straßen von Prag - Deutschland
  • French title: La pleurante des rues de Prague
  • Translated by Judith Landry
  • With an 'Interview' by Elizabeth Young
  • With an Introduction by Emma Wilson

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B- : doesn't entirely work (in translation ?)

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Times Literary Supplement . 18/12/1992 Barbara Wright

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       The Weeping Woman on the Streets of Prague is a chronicle of the twelve appearances of a mysterious figure in the Czech capital, a giant limping woman that the narrator occasionally glimpses. More apparition than tangible human figure: "She is untouchable, unknowable."
       This a decidedly literary game: the book begins with a Prologue, which begins: "She entered the book", and offers descriptions (warnings ?) such as:

     Made purely of her footsteps, this book too proceeds by chance.
       Or, more portentously:
     Indeed, it is only the writing of this text which gropes and fumbles, which tracks aimlessly for lack of any sense of a whole, of any certain landmark. Yet how can one chart the movements of an unknown woman who appears in the realm of the visible only intermittently ?
     The wind of ink which blows in her footsteps makes the words bend and bow, it drags up images which had been sunk in memory at the very limits of forgetfulness, and it leafs anticipation through the pages of the book which cannot but be fragmentary, and unfinished.
       That's a lot to want to pull off, and it's a kind of writing that can be hard to take. To Germain's credit, the appearances -- often brief, always fleeting -- do have a certain resonance. The streets of Prague, the golem-like figure limping along: parts of this aren't too bad, even when she waxes on in metaphysical-poetic mode.
       As a "clandestine frontier-runner of mingled tears, those of the living and those of the dead", the weeping woman also connects to pasts and suffering. Sometimes this is fairly effective, as in having Bruno Schulz conjured up. Sometimes it is horrifically sappy, as in the concentration camp homage:
The lilacs flowered upon the memory of dead children, the eyes of all the children of Terezin, closed at the threshold of the beauty of the world.
       It takes a special frame of mind to handle prose and matter like that, and The Weeping Woman on the Streets of Prague is chock full of much along those lines. Sometimes it can be effective, as when the figure practically becomes the city, but much of this feels simply terribly overwritten, straining for effect in poetic nonsense. Hence descriptions such as: "The wind howls, bending the trees double" (who has ever seen a tree bent double ?). On the other hand, there are some inspired touches: in the same windy section the narrator observes:
     But something was wrong: however hard you looked, it was impossible to tell whether the giant-woman was moving forwards or back, whether she was going up the street or down it. Yet she was walking.
     Perhaps she was just treading wind.
       Inevitably this is also the sort of book that peters out with babbling along the lines of:
     She left the book, leaving it unfinished, fallow. She went off to roam elsewhere, in another fashion.
     A disembodied giant born of the refraction of the pity of God in the tears of men, she left the book, which fails fully to express this pity.
     Or rather, it is not this book, but a sifting of calls and echoes. A limping text, stuttering. A weeping of ink. Anticipation.
       Sure, some of this stuff reads well, but overall it is pretty exasperating. As a sort of epic prose-poem it will do; as any sort of story -- i.e. if you try to make anything out of these airy thoughts -- it seems like so much pretentious fluff (scattered to the winds ...).
       Of some interest, but a peculiar and unsatisfying pleasure.

- Return to top of the page -


The Weeping Woman on the Streets of Prague: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       French author Sylvie Germain as born in 1956.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2008 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links