The Passion according to Renée Vivien

Translated by Kathleen McNerney and Helena Buffery

Contains the most beautiful prose I’ve ever read in Catalan

Anna Murià, novelist and translator


In this often poetic and lyrical novel by the revered Catalan poet Maria-Mercè Marçal, we are taken on a journey through the multiple, mobile and contradictory life, letters and loves of the fin-de-siècle Anglo-French writer, Pauline Tarn-Renée Vivien, as researched and reimagined by two principal narrators – a 1980s Catalan documentary film-maker Sara T. and a 1920s French archaeology scholar and museologist Salomon Reinach – alongside the voices of the various friends, relations, lovers, companions and servants who made her acquaintance at different moments in her life.

In the process, we are presented with a compelling reconstruction of the Belle Époque and interwar years in Paris, alongside other key sites in this transformational literary geography – Nice, Bayreuth, Switzerland, Istanbul, and the island of Lesbos – that include often dazzling evocations of other cultural figures and influencers of the age, from Zola to Pierre Louÿs and Remy de Gourmont, Liane de Pougy to Mathilde de Morny and Colette, not forgetting the central figure of Natalie Clifford-Barney, the ‘Amazone’.

About Maria-Mercè Marçal

Maria-Mercè Marçal (1952–1998) was a Catalan writer, known primarily for her work as a poet, feminist critic and activist, as well as a translator of European women’s writing into her mother tongue.

First translated into English in the 1980s, and recognised as an emerging voice in European letters, she has received increasing admiration for her careful excavation of a poetic landscape capable of expressing the different stages and nuances of women’s lived corporeal experience, from her early work Cau de llunes (Den of moons, 1977), Bruixa de dol (Mourning Witch, 1978) and Sal oberta (Open salt, 1982), via the ground-breaking Terra de mai (Neverland, 1982), La germana, l’estrangera (Sister, stranger, 1985) and Desglaç (Thaw, 1988) to the posthumous collection Raó del cos (The Body’s Reason, 2000).

Her celebration of love between women in all its different forms has made her a touchstone in contemporary lesbian/queer writing in Spain.

Her narrative work as the author of short stories and one novel, The Passion according to Renée Vivien, is less widely known but is rapidly gaining similar acclaim, and has recently been the subject of a number of critical studies. Already translated into four languages (German, Italian, Slovenian and Spanish), not to have an English version of The Passion according to Renée Vivien was difficult to justify.

About Kathleen McNerney

Kathleen McNerney is Professor Emerita of Hispanic Studies, Women’s Studies, and Humanities from West Virginia University, where she received titles of Benedum Distinguished Scholar and Singer Professor of the Humanities. She has been awarded several prizes in Catalonia, including the Premi Batista i Roca for her contribution to the international projection of Catalan literature. She is a broad-based scholar whose publications include works on Latin American, French and Castilian literatures, but the majority deal with Catalan women writers. She co-edited Double Minorities of Spain (1994) and Visions and Revisions: Women’s Narrative in Twentieth-Century Spain (2008), and compiled Mercè Rodoreda: A Selected and Annotated Bibliography (2002–2011) (2015). She has translated a number of works in various genres; her latest publication is Silent Souls and Other Stories by Caterina Albert (2018). She has an ongoing role in the Multiple Versions Project, dedicated to the translation of poetry from minoritized languages into more commonly used languages.

About Helena Buffery

Helena Buffery is an Anglo-Catalan lecturer and researcher who lives and works in Cork. She is an avid reader of Catalan literature, interested in the translation and reception of minority literatures, and has translated a number of literary texts from Catalan to English, most importantly the medieval chronicle, The Book of Deeds of James I of Aragon (2003, edited with Damian J. Smith). Other works she has published on different aspects of modern and contemporary Catalan culture include: Shakespeare in Catalan: Translating Imperialism (2007), Barcelona: Visual Culture, Space and Power (2012, with Carlota Caulfield) and the Historical Dictionary of the Catalans (2011, with Elisenda Marcer).


ISBN978 1 9164906 5 9
Number of pages354

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