The Book of Fervors
by Sue Monk Kidd
Translated from English (United States) by Laurence Kiefé, JC Lattès, 496 p., € 22.90
“My name is Ana. I was the wife of Jesus ben Joseph of Nazareth. I called him Beloved and he, laughing, nicknamed me Little Thunder. He said he heard it rumbling in me while I was sleeping, a thunder-like noise coming from the valley of Nahal Zippori or even from beyond, beyond the Jordan. (…) What he heard was my life begging to be born. These first sentences of the novel by the American Sue Monk Kidd, already author of the best-selling book Secret of the bees, immediately say the sparkling and cordial atmosphere of Ana’s personal story, which confides in her advanced age.
→ READ. These novelists who make Jesus speak
From Nazareth to Alexandria
After recording the lives of her contemporaries on papyrus scrolls, Ana examines her own memories. She learned to read and write early – a rarity for a Galilean from Ier century – thanks to his father, a notable of Sepphoris who became a collaborator of Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee. As a teenager, she got along no better with him than her adopted brother, Judas, who fled to join the Zealot agitators. Fiery and determined, the young Ana is saddened to have to accept an arranged marriage when Providence puts a 20-year-old young man with a gentle and piercing gaze in her path.
It took a certain daring to write a novel about the fictitious wife of Jesus of Nazareth… Sue Monk Kiddexplains his approach, his choices and his small adjustments with the biblical accounts in a convincing afterword. Intended for a large audience of all sensibilities, lively and rich in moving scenes, The Book of Fervors convinces by its inventiveness and the shift in the gaze proposed by the author.
Bride of jesus
Throughout her epic-like journey, from her hometown in Nazareth, from Jerusalem to Alexandria, Ana will meet women from different backgrounds and cultures. If the association with Jesus, before and during his public ministry, supports his temerity by masturbating it with wisdom, it also gives impetus to this female character, true keystone of this fresco. It is precisely by making Jesus a secondary character that the author sets up her romantic engine, this figure only being touched by the finger, left to the appropriation of each reader.
The novelist does not deviate the Gospel message or fall into an anachronistic feminism. It shows spouses inhabited by different fervors, little by little carried far away by the force of their quests. And it blossoms a deep conjugal bond that does not steal away distance, in which some may see a metaphor for all consecrated life, and others a beautiful love story.
Ana’s vocation will be to bear witness to the sufferings and conquests of women of her time, Jewish or pagan with various histories. An unrealistic romantic development? It is however the discovery of the authentic manuscript of an anonymous of the Ier century that inspired Sue Monk Kidd. Nine papyrus pages from the Nag Hammadi codices, found in 1945 near the Nile, entitled “The Thunder: Perfect Intellect”. The ancient poetess wrote there: ” I am the first and the last. I am the one who is honored and the one who is despised. I am the prostitute and the venerable one. I am the bride and the virgin. I am the mother and the daughter. It’s me, she… Don’t fear my strength… I am the knowledge of my name. I am the name of the voice and the voice of the name. “