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Religious wars, violence and refugees in the Middle Ages

The Convert

Stefan Hertmans

In a small village in Provence there has been talk since time immemorial about a pogrom and a hidden treasure trove. In the late nineteenth century, in a synagogue in Cairo, a number of revelatory Jewish documents were found. Stefan Hertmans came upon the trail of an eminent Christian damsel of the eleventh century who threw everything away for the love of a young Jewish man. The young woman and her forbidden love flee together and travel more than a thousand kilometres, on a journey full of hardships, pursued by knights sent by her father. It is the start of a thrilling and sensuous tale about pogroms and crusaders, and the death and destruction left in their wake.

An intense contest of contrasts between a writer's dogged search and the desolate time he evokes

Stefan Hertmans based the story of ‘The Convert’ on historical facts, and he brings the Middle Ages to life with immense imagination and stylistic ingenuity. This is the story of three religions and a world going through massive change, a story of hope, love and hatred, a novel about a woman who can be certain of one thing: at home the death penalty awaits.

Nothing less than a novel. And it’s a really good one.
The New York Times
Extraordinarly good
The Sunday Times
Praise for the English edition
Translated by David McKay and published by Harvill Secker

A Sunday Times Best Novel of the Year

  • 'Enthralling…  A spectacular tale told with spectacular accomplishment.'  The Sunday Times
  • 'Constructed with delicacy, lyricism, and care. The book has a quiet intimacy to it.' - Kirkus Reviews
  • 'Though the lovers' story isn't pretty, Hertmans (and translator David McKay) have made it beautiful.' - The Canberra Times
  • 'David McKay’s translation from the Flemish is as brilliant as it is frequently brutal, and intermittently lyrical.' - The Jewish Chronicle