The Woman Who Was Poor

Paper $22
Translated by I.J. Collins, 366 pages, 5½" x 8½"

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The Woman Who Was Poor

A Novel

Bloy, Leon

Written in the 1890s, this novel has had an immeasurable effect on all European Catholic writing since. It is an extraordinary book, powerful in the manner of dos Passos, yet spiritual in the manner of the Bible.

It is the story of a woman abysmally poor, brutally treated and also exploited by her parents, living in the gutters of Paris, yet retaining the spiritual outlook and the purity of a saint. We are spared no brutality, yet there are scenes of the most tender beauty.

The woman, Clotilda, becomes an artist’s model, meeting all the great French writers, among them the gloomy and magnificent Marchenoir, who is Bloy himself. They are all impressed by the depth of her thoughts and feelings; and finally she marries one of them. They are pitifully poor, and the pages which cover the birth and death of their child shock with their horror at the same time as they move with their tragic beauty and tenderness—for that is Bloy, hovering always between death and ecstasy. Left a widow, Clotilda finds her true vocation, a vocation of poverty: she is The Woman Who Was Poor—no other words can describe her accurately. The novel ends with those famous words of extraordinary optimism: “There is only one misery . . . not to be saints.”