I Who Have Never Known Men

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UPC: 9781945492600
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Authors: by Jacqueline Harpman (Author), Ros Schwartz (Translator), Sophie Mackintosh (Afterword)
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Transit Books (May 10, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 208 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1945492600
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1945492600

Ursula K. LeGuin meets The Road in a post-apocalyptic modern classic of female friendship and intimacy.

Deep underground, thirty-nine women live imprisoned in a cage. Watched over by guards, the women have no memory of how they got there, no notion of time, and only a vague recollection of their lives before.

As the burn of electric light merges day into night and numberless years pass, a young girl—the fortieth prisoner—sits alone and outcast in the corner. Soon she will show herself to be the key to the others' escape and survival in the strange world that awaits them above ground.

Jacqueline Harpman was born in Etterbeek, Belgium, in 1929, and fled to Casablanca with her family during WWII. Informed by her background as a psychoanalyst and her youth in exile, I Who Have Never Known Men is a haunting, heartbreaking post-apocalyptic novel of female friendship and intimacy, and the lengths people will go to maintain their humanity in the face of devastation. Back in print for the first time since 1997, Harpman’s modern classic is an important addition to the growing canon of feminist speculative literature.


“Harpman says here all there is to say about dignity and the difficulty of remaining human in the face of suffering.”—Le Quotidien

I Who Have Never Known Men is about as heavyhearted as fiction can get, but all the loneliness and oblivion of a deserted world won't stop us from following the narrator as far as she can go. We may share the nameless young woman's frustration when she learns that freedom is not enough, but each revelation that directs her steps is a small miracle.”—The New York Times

“Carefully crafted, this novel is both unusual and thought-provoking.”—Library Journal

“Beautifully written…”—Booklist

“It is surprising that a book with the psychological detail of a nightmare elicits in the reader feelings of such profound intensity.”—Le Monde

“The delirium of I Who Have Never Known Men suggests the work of a feminine Kafka.”—Le Nouvel Observateur

“Like Kafka with a dash of Ursula Le Guin, this story is part mystery, part science fiction, and all literature: beautifully written and thoughtfully meditating on how we know what we know and why we act certain ways.”—Kevin Grandfield

“Paradoxically, the book’s austere mystery—the atrophied and gelid world it depicts—provides a richly allusive consideration of human life.”—Deborah Eisenberg for The New York Review of Books


About the Author

JACQUELINE HARPMAN (1929-2012) was a Belgian author of over fifteen novels. Born in Etterbeek, Belgium, in 1929, she fled to Casablanca with her family during the Second World War. She studied French literature and trained to become a doctor but was unable to continue her medical studies after contracting tuberculosis. Harpman began writing in 1954, and wrote over fifteen novels, winning numerous prizes, including the Prix ​​Médicis (Orlanda), the Prix ​​Victor-Rossel (Brève Arcadie), among others. I Who Have Never Known Men, originally published in French in 1995, was the first of her books to be translated into English.

ROS SCHWARTZ has translated numerous works of fiction and non-fiction from French, including several Georges Simenon titles for Penguin Classics, a new translation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 
The Little Prince and, most recently, Mireille Gansel’s Translation as Transhumance. The recipient of a number of awards, she was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2009 and received the Institute of Translation and Interpreting’s John Sykes Memorial Prize for Excellence in 2017.

Sophie Mackintosh is the author of Blue Ticket and The Water Cure, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.