Literature

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Russian Lessons

Catherine Texier

Erotic, smart, violent, tender, and finally heartbreaking, Russian Lessons is a classic of erotic literature, as bold and compelling as Yukio Mishima’s The School of Flesh, or D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley Lover.

Since the late 80’s, when she started writing in English, switching from her native French, Catherine Texier has made her reputation with fierce, erotic novels that explore the constantly shifting dynamic of sexual power between men and women. From Love Me Tender to her devastating memoir Breakup and her more romantic novel Victorine, Texier has charted the depth of sexual desire and obsession with brutal honesty and lyrical prose.

In her extraordinary new novel, Russian Lessons, Texier tells the story of a divorced mother of an 8 year old little girl who gets involved with a tempestuous thirty-year old Russian illegal immigrant. The edgy affair quickly turns into a darker bond of obsession and compulsion as Yuri constantly pushes the limits sexually and emotionally, driving their relationship to an intense and brutal pitch. Their stormy liaison eventually threatens the narrator’s life as her own complicated feelings and vulnerabilities violently conflict with Yuri’s desperate pursuit of love and security.

Texier is the author of four previous novels, Chloé l’AtlanqueLove Me Tender, Panic Blood, Victorine, and a memoir, Breakup. Her novel Victorine won ELLE’s readers Prize for Best Novel of the Year. She was co-editor of the zeitgeist literary magazine Between C and D, that established many of the voices of modern New York writing. has written for The New York Times, Newsday, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Marie-Claire and Nerve.com. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts award and two New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships, and her work has been translated into ten languages.

Texier tells this story in a way that has for some reason become rare: it is a truthful, deeply felt account of two fully rendered humans in the grip of devouring sexual love. Texier knows not to analyze or explain or blame; such things can only be understood by feeling if they can be understood at all, and one way or the other, you will feel this book.

Mary Gaitskill, author of Bad BehaviorVenorica, and The Mare

“Texier… has an astonishing visual imagination…. She combines powerful pornography with impeccably sensual allure.” New Statesman and Society 

“Texier writes with the kind of restless energy which continually suggests the fluidity and danger of whitewater rapids – it has the same cruel beauty of potential hidden beneath the rushing flow of life.” Time Out London

Texier’s prose reads like a brilliant translation from the French – James Atlas, Vanity Fair

REVIEWS OF BABY ZERO

“What a incendiary, thought-provoking novel this is. It examines how women and children are crushed between the twin oppressions of eastern fundamentalism and western consumerism. And it also, like a bleak but spiritual and haunting ballad, moves us and makes us care.”

Irvine Welsh


“In a world awash with the sort of low-grade, formulaic fiction that publishers think women want, Emer Martin is a beacon of hope…. If there is any justice in the world her latest novel, Baby Zero, will see her break through to the major league of literary writers and cement her reputation as one of the most exciting voices to emerge from this country in the last decade…. A prophetic and deeply moving work.”

Books Ireland, Feb 2007


“A masterpiece”

–Kevin Williamson


“Raven-haired writer Emer Martin is giving a lunchtime reading from her fabulous new novel, Baby Zero. Emer Martin is a brilliant writer, very much the real deal. She tells me that every single Irish review of her new book has made passing reference to Cecelia Ahern. Weird, given that Emer is to chick-lit what Shane MacGowan is to sobriety.”

– Olaf Tyaransen, Evening Herald


“This, her third [novel], explores the uncertainties of the post-9/11 world, addressing the conflict between Islam and the West and the problems of immigration and assimilation through the “river within a river” that is Marguerite’s story…

Indeed Martin’s own situation – as an Irish woman married to an Iranian man – makes her uniquely placed to address such fraught issues, and this insight elevates Marguerite’s tale into a subtle exploration of the role of history and memory in the construction of identity: “You know you’re in trouble when the Iranians think you treat women badly.”

Martin delights in subverting the glib stereotypes of East and West and rejects traditional markers of nationality, identity and ethnicity in favour of a focus on individuals and the similarities between them. Viewed from this perspective, contemporary tensions are nothing more than “the same Cowboy and Indian story over and over again in different costumes, in different locations”. Baby Zero is both a convincing tale and a timely warning.”

–The Irish Times, 24 February 2007


“A riveting page-turner. A compelling satire on the clash of civilizations, the success of this story lies in the telling. Painted in large letters on a wall in the centre of Dublin, someone has taken the trouble to proclaim “Never forgive, never forget” not too far away, another, in even larger letters reads “Love Life”. If these slogans represent the writing on the wall of a new, multicultural Ireland, then Emer Martin’s Baby Zero offers rare insight into what they might mean.”

Brenda McNally, Sunday Tribune


“[Baby Zero] is cogent and urgent in depicting migration and dislocation as the predominant narrative of 21st-century history. Her characters are piquant and memorable; the tale is also very funny in its portrait of Leila’s monstrous mother, Farah…[Martin’s] portrait of a world defined by the collapse of all notions of community contains lasting strength and beauty”

–Claire Alfree, Metro (London)


“Sometimes critics say a novel’s plot is great but the writing isn’t so good, or that the writing is great yet the plot is up-the-left. But this is the first time, I’m sure, that I haven’t been able to break those two things apart. There’s no light between them. They’re equally extraordinary, equally driving the momentum. Baby Zero is a literary unit so flush, confident and unique that it should win a big fat prize, and I suspect it will. It’s as sharp and sore and dizzying as a bullet wound, and will probably stay with you for just as long.”

 – Belfast Telegraph