Purported to be the scandalous confessional of Vicar Jerome Savoie, this novel tells the story of seven men as they travel through exotic Middle East locations in the late 19th century. Each of them samples the finest goods and hedonistic pleasures the world has to offer as they chase after some elusive and rare treasure. But their hearts’ desires do not come without a price; the men contract debilitating maladies and crippling deformities as they make their acquisitions. When the men unburden their souls to the Vicar, it becomes apparent that each of them has met up with a beautiful and bewitching young woman, whose beauty is marred by a singular scar upon her face.
Who is this enigmatic woman? Is she really brining her black arts to bear against the Vicar and the Catholic Church, as the men assert?
Translated from the French by Fred A. Reed and David Homel, Desjardins’ prose comes across lush and lyrical, as enchanting and compelling as the tales of Scheherazade. Her depictions of bazaars and mosques, caravansaries and oases, are jewel-like in their brilliance and precision. The reader is fully mesmerized by such prose and the surprise ending of the novel makes it all that much more of a rewarding experience.