Magdalena the Sinner: Novel, a

Lilian Faschinger, Author
Lilian Faschinger, Author HarperCollins $24 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-018653-1
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Despite its chill artiness and glib anticlericalism, Faschinger's comic fairy tale and third novel (her first to be translated into English) is a finely crafted exploitation of the power of language to charm and to provoke. Disguised as a Carmelite nun, Magdalena Leitner kidnaps a priest at gunpoint, takes him on her Puch 800 motorbike to a remote forest in Austria and holds him prisoner. She intends to relate her misdeeds with seven lovers--including murder--yet it becomes evident that she has another, more subtle, purpose. The clownishly naive priest listens in horror to her atrocities but can't resist her erotic spell. Throughout the tale, the strategic association of iniquity with holiness eventually blurs the boundaries so that sin seems justified and saintliness suspect. Couched in the language of the confessional, Magdalena's tale is in fact a series of erotic provocations and observations designed to inflame the priest and confront him with his own hidden desires. In one aside, she muses on the connection between love and resentment: ""There is nothing more dangerous than a woman whose desire for love has consistently been disappointed."" Her more general subject is the bond between opposites--love and hate, holiness and the sin it denies. This shopworn but user-friendly Nietzscheanism, which has earned Faschinger critical accolades in Europe and England, will no doubt win American fans as well. (Sept.)
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