Originally published in 1947, The Trial of Sören Qvist has been praised by a number of critics for its intriguing plot and Janet Lewis’s powerful writing. And in the introduction to this new edition, Swallow Press executive editor and author Kevin Haworth calls attention to the contemporary feeling of the story—despite its having been written more than fifty years ago and set several hundred years in the past. As in Lewis’s best-known novel, The Wife of Martin Guerre, the plot derives from Samuel March Phillips’s nineteenth-century study, Famous Cases of Circumstantial Evidence, in which this British legal historian considered the trial of Pastor Sören Qvist to be the most striking case.
About the Author
Janet Lewis was a novelist, poet, and short-story writer whose literary career spanned almost the entire twentieth century. The New York Times has praised her novels as “some of the 20th century’s most vividly imagined and finely wrought literature.” Born and educated in Chicago, she lived in California for most of her adult life and taught at both Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. Her works include The Wife of Martin Guerre (1941), The Trial of Sören Qvist (1947), The Ghost of Monsieur Scarron (1959), Good-Bye, Son and Other Stories (1946), and Poems Old and New (1982).
"The perfect novel of its genre."—New York Times
“Probably (The Trial of Sören Qvist) is the most perfect of Janet Lewis’ novels, and among the most perfect of any novels.”—Fred Inglis, Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction
"A harmonious retelling of a seventeenth-century legend concerning a saintly pastor, his cherished daughter, and the villain who betrayed them…. Miss Lewis's artfully simple prose achieves the effect of an ancient, lovingly illuminated missal."—New Yorker
“Lewis has retold a true legend of Denmark in unadorned, free, and exciting prose. Here is a gruesomely fascinating story of such circumstantial evidence as to make the reader want to cry out in protest.”—Saturday Review of Literature
“You know from the beginning what has happened– that a man has been executed for a murder no one in the small Danish community believes he committed. Yet circumstantial evidence points to him. By the end, he has convinced himself he is indeed guilty, and would rather die with a good conscience, forgiven by God, than struggle to live.” —Meredith Sue Willis’s Books for Readers
“I believe that there is nothing in my account of the Parson of Vejlby which might not have happened as I tell it. He is one of a great company of men and women who have preferred to lose their lives rather than accept a universe without plan or without meaning.”
— Janet Lewis on The Trial of Sören Qvist
“Probably (The Trial of Sören Qvist) is the most perfet of Janet Lewis’ novels, and among the most perfect of any novels.”
— Fred Inglis, Critque: Studies in Modern Fiction