Standing at the critical juncture between traditional romance and
early novelistic realism, "Zayde" is both the swan song of a
literary tradition nearly two thousand years old and a harbinger of
the modern psychological novel.
"Zayde" unfolds during the long medieval struggle between
Christians and Muslims for control of the Iberian Peninsula; Madame
de Lafayette (1634-93) takes the reader on a Mediterranean tour
typical of classical and seventeenth-century romances from
Catalonia to Cyprus and back again with battles, prophecies, and
shipwrecks dotting the crisscrossed paths of the book s noble
lovers. But where romance was long and episodic, "Zayde" possesses
a magisterial architecture of suspense. Chaste and faithful
heroines and heroes are replaced here by characters who are
consumed by jealousy and unable to love happily. And, unlike in
traditional romance, the reader is no longer simply expected to
admire deeds of bravery and virtue, but instead is caught up in
intense first-person testimony on the psychology of desire.
Unavailable in English for more than two centuries, "Zayde"
reemerges here in Nicholas Paige s accessible and vibrant
translation as a worthy representative of a once popular genre and
will be welcomed by readers of French literature and students of
the European novelistic tradition."
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