Fermine, Maxence 1968-

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FERMINE, Maxence 1968-

PERSONAL:

Born 1968, in Albertville, France. Education: Attended University of Paris.

ADDRESSES:

Agent—c/o Author Mail, Atria Books, Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

CAREER:

Author and poet.

WRITINGS:

Neige, 1999, translation by Chris Mulhern published as Snow, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2003.

L'apiculteur (title means "The Bee Keeper"), Feryane (Paris, France), 2000.

(With Olivier Besson) Sagesses et malices de Confucius, le roi sans royaume (title means "Wisdoms and Mischievousnesses of Confucius, the King without a Kingdom"), Albin Michel (Paris, France), 2001.

Opium, Albin Michel (Paris, France), 2002.

Le violon noir, translation by Chris Mulhern published as The Black Violin, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2003.

Billiard Blues: suivi de Jazz blanc et Poker, Albin Michel (Paris, France), 2003.

SIDELIGHTS:

French author and poet Maxence Fermine's first book, Neige, translated into English as Snow, was a popular bestseller in his native France. The small book's success led to several more books as well as translations of Fermine's writings into a dozen languages. Booklist's Donna Seaman said that Fermine's "ethereal, Zen-like fable is exquisite. Simply lovely." A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote, "Crystalline and spare, this tale nevertheless packs substantial heat in its passionate embrace of youthful ideals and matters of the heart."

Snow, set in 1884, is a fairy-tale-like story of Yuko Akita, who at age seventeen must choose between joining the army or leading a religious life. But Yuko, who lives on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, known for its fierce winters, is passionate about just two things: haiku, a Japanese form of poetry that employs three lines of five, seven, and five syllables; and snow. He tells his father that he wishes to become a poet "to learn to watch the passing of time." And he does, winter after winter, with the whiteness of the countryside around reflected in each poem.

When a poet from the emperor's court comes to hear the young man's poetry, he deems it colorless and advises him to learn how to brighten it from Soseki, a now-blind painter and former samurai who lives in southern Japan. As the young man travels to see this master, he comes upon the body of a beautiful European woman, frozen in ice. When Yuko reaches his destination, Soseki tells him that he had been married to a French woman, a tightrope walker named Snow. After they had a daughter, she became bored and restless and left him to return to her profession, only to die in an accident while performing. In the end, Yuko finds love with a girl who is as pure as snow.

Javier Fernandez reviewed Snow for Literate World online, writing, "A good example of minimalism, Snow is a successful exercise in style, a concise piece of writing without unnecessary adornments. This exquisite miniature is a postmodern story that interprets literary tradition (in this case, Japanese poetry) from a contemporary and Western point of view." Fernandez also said that "every paragraph and every chapter of Snow is conceived in the spirit of haiku, blending quintessential elements like intensity, simplicity, the mystery of natural elements, and an evocative union of sensuality and abstraction." Sheri Melnick, who did an online review of Snow for Romantic Times Book Club, said that "this lyrical read will entrance the reader with its beauty and light."

Fermine's L'apiculteur is also about a young man, Aurélian, who lives in nineteenth-century France and dreams of golden honey. He installs hives on the fields of the family farm, after which one violent storm decides his fate.

Sagesses et malices de Confucius, le roi sans royaume, written for children, translates to "Wisdoms and Mischievousnesses of Confucius, the King without a Kingdom." It is a collection of forty-two humorous vignettes that offer a light-hearted look at the philosopher's teachings.

Set in 1838, Fermine's novel Opium finds Englishman Charles Stowe traveling to China along the route called the tea road, searching for the teas of the Orient that are unknown to the British. Charles is aided by an Irishman named Pearle and negotiates with Lu Chen, who reigns over the Chinese tea trade. He also meets the beautiful Loan, a Chinese woman with green eyes and a tattoo of a poppy on her shoulder.

Le violon noir, translated into English as The Black Violin, is set in 1797 in Venice, Italy during its invasion by Napoléon Bonaparte. Johannes Karelsky, whose talent as a violinist has been recognized since his childhood and who dreams of writing opera, enrolls in the French army. When he is wounded in combat, he takes refuge in the home of a mysterious old violin maker, and the two men develop a relationship that is strengthened by music and trust. Soon, the violin maker is willing to share the story of his life, one involving a black violin. Like Snow, The Black Violin was translated by Chris Mulhern and published in the United States by Atria Books.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, December 15, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of Snow, p. 732.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2002, review of Snow, p. 1716.

Publishers Weekly, January 6, 2003, review of Snow, p. 40.

ONLINE

Literate World,http://www.literateworld.com/ (December 23, 2002), Javier Fernandez, review of Snow.

Post and Courier (Charleston, SC), http://www.charleston.net/ (June 1, 2003), Henri G. Bernard, review of Snow.

Romantic Times Book Club,http://www.romantictimes.com/ (July 1, 2003), Sheri Melnick, review of Snow.*

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