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A Swallow Press Book

The Wife of Martin Guerre

By Janet Lewis

“One of the most significant short novels in English.”

Atlantic Monthly

“Janet Lewis brings the haunting qualities of fable to this novella, based on a legal case that attracted wide attention in 16th-century France and has continued to fascinate down through the years.”

Ron Hansen, The Wall Street Journal

“A masterpiece…a short novel that can run with Billy Budd, The Spoils of Poynton, Seize the Day, or any other.”

Larry McMurtry, The New York Review of Books

“Flaubertian in the elegance of its form and the gravity of its style.”

The New Yorker

Set in 16th century France, this compelling story of Bertrande de Rols is the first of the Cases of Circumstantial Evidence.

Janet Lewis was a novelist, poet, and short-story writer whose literary career spanned almost the entire twentieth century. The New York Times has praised her novels as “some of the 20th century’s most vividly imagined and finely wrought literature.” Born and educated in Chicago, she lived in California for most of her adult life and taught at both Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. Her works include The Wife of Martin Guerre (1941), The Trial of Sören Qvist (1947), The Ghost of Monsieur Scarron (1959), Good-Bye, Son and Other Stories (1946), and Poems Old and New (1982).

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978-0-8040-0321-6
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Additional Praise for The Wife of Martin Guerre

“When the literary history of the second millennium is written at the end of the third, in the category of dazzling American short fiction (Janet Lewis’s) Wife of Martin Guerre will be regarded as the 20th century's Billy Budd and Janet Lewis will be ranked with Herman Melville.”

The New York Times

“One of the last century’s great novels.”

A Commonplace Blog

The Wife of Martin Guerre by Janet Lewis is one of the most resonant short novels I can remember. I greatly like two other books she wrote: The Trial of Soren Qvist and The Ghost of Monsieur Scarron. She never got the attention she deserved.”

Evan S. Connell, Jr.

Related Titles

Cover of 'The Wife of Martin Guerre'

The Wife of Martin Guerre
By Janet Lewis
· Introduction by Kevin Haworth
· Afterword by Larry McMurtry

The Wife of Martin Guerre—based on a notorious trial in sixteenth-century France—is “one of the most significant short novels in English” (Atlantic Monthly). Originally published in 1941, it still raises questions about identity, belonging, and about an individual’s capacity to act within an inflexible system.

Literary Fiction · Women Authors · American Literature · Historical Fiction · Literary Studies · France

Cover of 'The Ghost of Monsieur Scarron'

The Ghost of Monsieur Scarron
By Janet Lewis
· Introduction by Kevin Haworth

This historical novel is the third and final book in American poet and fiction writer Janet Lewis’s Cases of Circumstantial Evidence series, based on legal case studies compiled in the nineteenth century. In The Ghost of Monsieur Scarron, Lewis returns to her beloved France, the setting of The Wife of Martin Guerre, her best-known novel and the first in the series.

Women Authors · France · Literary Fiction · American Literature · Historical Fiction · Literary Studies

Cover of 'The Trial of Sören Qvist'

The Trial of Sören Qvist
By Janet Lewis
· Introduction by Kevin Haworth

Originally published in 1947, The Trial of Sören Qvist has been praised by a number of critics for its intriguing plot and Janet Lewis’s powerful writing. And in the introduction to this new edition, Swallow Press executive editor and author Kevin Haworth calls attention to the contemporary feeling of the story—despite its having been written more than fifty years ago and set several hundred years in the past.

Women Authors · Literary Fiction · American Literature · Historical Fiction · Literary Studies