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Murder in Byzantium A Novel Paperback – 9 May 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (9 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231136374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231136372
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.2 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,331,510 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"This is a novel of which we have not seen the like since Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose." -- Bernard-Henri Levy, Le Point "Julia Kristeva gives us a stimulating, joyous book. In a word, a great Byzantine novel." -- Christine Rousseau, Le Monde "Readers will enjoy this concoction, which falls squarely in the Eco/Perez-Reverte tradition of mystery with a moral." -- Kirkus "This is no 'novel'...It is inflammatory, argumentative, ranting, full of history, prose suggestion, education... and a relay of truth." -- Tony Gurney, New Criminologist "There are philosophical observations, trenchant comments and deep historical events in this book, but it's also a lot of old-fashioned fun." -- Margaret Cannon, Globe and Mail "It's a book chock-full of ideas and experiments." -- Irish Times "Kristeva doesn't skimp on plot or suspense... Buy it for the Dan Brown fan in your life." -- Matt Thorne, The Independent Online Edition " Murder in Byzantium is an intriguing and bold venture... A real Kristevan joy ride." --Adi Drori-Avraham, The Liberal

About the Author

Julia Kristeva is a renowned psychoanalyst, critic, and professor of linguistics at the Universite de Paris VII. She is the author of many acclaimed works and novels, including The Samurai, The Old Man and the Wolves, and Possessions, and is the recipient of the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought and the Holberg International Memorial Prize.C. Jon Delogu is professor of English at the Universite de Lyon III-Jean Moulin.

Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Voyager on 1 Sept. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Forget any comparisons with Eco. This is amateurish. Kristeva shows little interest in her cardboard characters or the thin plot. Her attempts to drive up suspense are feeble. Her heroine meets with a gang boss. 'I'll be lucky to get out of this alive,' she tells us. Nothing happens. She walks out of the door, no problem.

Half the book is taken up with expounding ideas. The problem is that they don't grow out of the story, or have much relevance to it. The result the story disrupts the philosophy and the philosophy breaks up the story. If you're interested in her ideas, her non-fiction is a much better bet.

The translator has no grasp of colloquial English. For example, the 'non?' that the French use to end sentences that imply a question becomes 'no', instead of 'don't you think?' or 'Isn't it?'. Columbia University Press should be ashamed of themselves.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By MissyVBizzy on 17 Nov. 2011
Format: Hardcover
I'm quite familiar with Kristeva's theoretical texts and her fondness for pursuing a tangent or three. I also have to admit I gave up on the book 2/3 the way through even though I tried, I really tried to get to the end. In terms of truly making the leap from theorist to novelist, Kristeva holds back where Umberto Eco takes a bold leap. Eco wholeheartedly embraces the story telling process with fresh and innovative approaches, but still adheres to plot and character creating a wholly enjoyable read. Kristeva's characters lack substance, her main female protagonist, turns into a mouthpiece for Kristeva really, the well heeled anti-hero for some reason drives a Fiat Panda????!!!! and why in god's name would anyone on a half decent salary drive the length of Europe in a Fiat Panda if they were not a presenter on Top Gear proving a point? I understand that Kristeva is exploring ideas of Byzantium and interweaving with today's world but it is done very clumsily and in an irritating knowing, winking way that takes me back to some rather odd lectures on Psychoanalysis and its theory from my undergraduate days, its not subtle, its not skillful, its just not literary writing, she abandons her characters and often the plot itself to indulge her on preoccupations. Kristeva is too bound up in herself to lose herself in her characters and their stories and ultimately this spoils what could have been a very interesting book. I'm saddened as I would like to see a female writer giving the chaps a run for their money. Though interestingly in the actual murder mystery genre it is a genre where women writers dominate, so really Kristeva should have done a better job than she did.
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By Wiktor Ostasz on 27 Mar. 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Arrived in a condition just as described and much sooner than I expected. Thank you very much!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Misleading 26 Mar. 2006
By M. Galishoff - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Publisher has done injustice to the reader and author by comparing this novel to Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. Whereas Eco's work is a rare jewel that seems to bet better with time, it cannot be compared to the current work. This author has her own voice and style that is much different than Eco. By making such claims, the reader familiar with the former work is naturally set up for a dissapointment and may miss what is good and notable in the present novel.

In particular, both authors have a great fund of knowlege of an area of history and have endeavored to create fiction using their historical and philosophical skills. The present author, unfortunately, creates diversions in her novel that distract the reader from becomming engrossed in the unique insights of the author. Such a novel should endeavor to educate and to entertain. The love affair between two of the main characters may serve as a basis for a subplot unpon which the main plot is built. In my opinion, however, it is an unwelcome distraction.

The author also attempts the difficult tast of moving back and forth between the remote past and the present, obviously an attempt to recreate the mindset of one of the murderers. This is necessary for the novel to work but either through translation or style it is awkward and sometimes difficult to follow. Faulkner was the master of this difficult genre and one shuns not the difficulty but admires the seamlessness.

Perhaps the most distracting and annoying part of the novel is the author's moralizing on current events in an attempt to create a thesis comparing 21st century American foreign policy to the Crusades. This is all well and good but the author here blurs the distinction between nonfiction and fiction. The art is in leading the reader to entertain such a thesis without stating it much less harping on it.

Finally, Eco's work is humble and patient in nature and despite his great intellect and grasp of his subject matter he never "talks down" to the reader. Here, one is annowed by the tone of the prose which is a bit snobbish and assumes a level of understanding and knowlege of facts, literature and events that few may have. In doing so, the author misses an opportunity to fully educate and share her deeper thoughts with a wider readership that will simply skim over the pedantic rantings to find out who done it. Tis a pity for the subject matter is rich and deserves better.

Nonetheless, the book is entertaining and worth reading. You would do better to approach it without the great expectations the publisher claims.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
11th Century Byzantium 14 Jan. 2009
By Lyn Reese - Published on
Format: Paperback
Murder in Byzantium
by Julia Kristeva

This contemporary story is included because of its hefty inclusion of information about the First Crusades and the world's first female historian, Anna Comnena (1083-1153). whom Kristeva sees as "the leading intellectual of her day."

The primary character is journalist Stephanie Delacour who has been sent from Paris to the fictional country of Santa Varvara to report on a serial killer busily dispatching members of the Mafia/terrorist based New Pantheon sect. Here she again meets Commisario Northrop Rilsky, who rapidly becomes her lover. While Northrop tracks down the source of the multiple murders, Stephanie researches the mysterious disappearance of the Commisario's relative, the eccentric medieval and migration historian Sebastian Chrest-Jones. It is Chrest-Jones's travels following the route of a French crusader which offers the fanciful but intriguing interpretation of the chaotic life and times of Anna Comnena.

This is not an easily read, straight forward story. Author Kristeva, a renowned French intellectual of Bulgarian birth, gives us an erudite, layered, and somewhat abstruse narrative. Intersected with the plot are musings about immigration, migration, globalization, the cultural clash between the East and Latin West, the Bogomil "heresy," persecuted Jews, devastated Thracian peasants, the Alexiad, Maria of Bulgaria, and so forth. A major theme is the connections between the world and ideas of the first Crusaders to those of today.

Maps of the routes of the French and German Crusaders during the First Crusades included. This is the author's second book with Delacour and Rilsky as investigators.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I like the events more than the style 2 Sept. 2011
By Bruce P. Barten - Published on
Format: Paperback
Tossing off a stitch of creepy times.

I tend to think of modern politics as a combination that builds to the desire for its own conclusion:

Liberty, equality, fraternity, vasectomy.

Literary life has a streaky bacon style when each character is perfect at not being anyone else. Stephanie Delacour is the personification of an author who is bound to be plagued by everything. Julia Kristeva does not have to limit herself to autobiographical material to pick up the rude joy of the teasing cries of birds known as laughing gulls.

One of the characters, Sebastian Chrest-Jones, a scholar of mixed populations at the Institute of Migratory History, personifies mocking derision. As a scholar, Sebastian Chrest-Jones considers committing a crime "the height of bad taste" (p. 12), but when his charming laboratory colleague Fa Chang, who has only been his mistress for a few months, discloses that she will have a baby, his rage strangled her, put her body in a car, pushed the car over a cliff, so:

The car bobbed and spun over
a few times before sinking
into the deep water of Big
Stony Brook Pond. (p. 15).

People who have thousands of years between their days and a cumulative fatigue from an active forty-eight hours that did not allow him to sleep are in no mood for the kind of surprise that is likely to produce an obligation to nurture or support another human being for the next few decades, even if the announcement is:

Of course,
you are under no obligation.
I know how important your freedom is to you.
But it's important that you know,
and I prefer telling you on this very day,
such an important day for you,
for both of us,
even though it concerns only me
in a certain sense.
So, guess what?
I'm going to have a baby!
Isn't that fabulous? (p. 14).
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Read the description of the novel carefully 7 July 2009
By M. GIBSON - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I wont go into too much detail here... just say that this is less of a novel and more a series of character introspectives. It would be appreciated by students of philosophy and anthropology rather than casual readers. There are some insightful and provocative gems in this work (comparisons of modern political efforts to those of Byzantium). But it takes some patience to find them. This is not a story of Byzantium or really even a murder mystery in my opinion. Rather is uses both Byzantium and death symbolically to offer commentary on life, culture and morality in a post 9/11 world. If you want a narrative driven tale of suspense, this is not your book. Neither would I compare it to the writing of Umberto Eco or Perez-Reverte. It is far more opaque in its message than books by the other authors and frankly her prose just doesnt compare. Nor would I "buy it for the Dan Brown fan in your life". Dan Brown thinks he has academic chops. Kristeva really does and she is writes about ideas, history, language and culture with far more sophistication. That said - the book reads like a therapy session and gets bogged down by (dare I say it) too many words. I have a felling I will be thinking about it for a long while - though honestly I have not enjoyed reading it.
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