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'Il n’y a pas de troisième voie’ (There is no third way)

Sylvie Germain and the generic problems of the Christian novel

Margaret-Anne Hutton

Sylvie Germain is an unusual phenomenon on the French literary scene. Having studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, she entered the audiovisual section of the Ministère de la culture in 1981, securing immediate literary success four years later with her first novel, Le Livre des nuits. Le Livre des nuits, the opening volume of Germain's diptych, traces the ebb and flow of faith within the Péniel family, centring on the principal character, Victor-Flandrin, and the suffering he endures. 'Il n'y a pas de troisième voie' (There is no third way) refers to the words of Prokop, principal character of Germain's Immensités, as he ponders his perceived need to settle the question of the existence of God. Germain's engagement with Christianity is unusual in a French female author; she follows in a predominantly male tradition of novelists, most notably François Mauriac and Bernanos.