If You Cross the River


If You Cross the River

A Novel

“An allegorical coming-of-age story told in a trusting and curious voice . . . Damas keeps us enthralled as [François] unravels the family mystery.” —BBC
Share this title 


From celebrated Belgian author Geneviève Damas, a modern fable about friendship, self-determination, and the power of education.

Illiterate, isolated, and held at arm’s length by a bitter father, François Sorrente has spent his seventeen years within narrow confines. By day he tends the family farm’s pigs; by night he manages the household chores. Still, François can’t help but wonder about the wider world and his place in it. Who was his mother, who he remembers not at all? And why is the opposite shore of the river, where his beloved older sister disappeared many years ago, forbidden to him?

Propelled by curiosity, François turns to the eclectic denizens of his town to help make sense of these mysteries. He begins reading lessons with a melancholy curé, falls into an affair with a village woman, and affectionately confides his secrets to a velvet-eared piglet named Hyménée. As François questions both his origins and the course of his life, he begins to unlock the true story of his mother and sister, and comes to reinvent himself.

Exquisitely translated from the French by poet Jody Gladding—in the spiky syntax of one whose world is rapidly shifting and evolving—If You Cross the River is a striking debut.

Publish Date: 
5.5 × 8.5 × 0.5 in
12 oz

Geneviève Damas is a Belgian actress, playwright, and novelist. After completing a law degree, she turned to theater. She has acted, directed, and written award-winning plays for both children and adults. If You Cross the River is her first novel and has received wide international acclaim, including recceiving the Prix Victor Rossel in Belgium and the Prix des Cinq Continents de la Francophonie, awarded annually for fiction that enriches cultural diversity and the French language on the five continents. Damas lives in Brussels.

Jody Gladding

Jody Gladding is the author of four collections of poems: the spiders    my arms, Translations from Bark Beetle, Rooms and Their Airs, and Stone Crop. She has translated thirty books from French, including Geneviève Damas’s If You Cross the River, Jean Giono’s The Serpent of Stars, and Pierre Michon’s Small Lives, which won the French-American Translation Prize. She lives in Vermont.

Praise and Prizes

Blog Post