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Mad's Spy Versus Spy [Paperback]

Fritz Peters
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 1970

Mechanically, watching the land disappear into the sea, the word Finstère came to mind. Finis-terre. Land's End. From here it really looked it . . . it was the end of Brittany, the end of France. The end of the earth. . . .

A lyrical gay coming-of-age story first published in 1951, acclaimed by many including Gore Vidal and The New York Times, about Matthew, a young American who moves to France with his mother following his parents' divorce. In boarding school and on trips with his mother into the countryside, Matthew navigates his budding sexuality and complicated new relationships with trepidation and hardship until he is forced to confront finistère—land's end—where the brutal truths of the world can be found.

Finstère was a profound achievement in the early years of the 1950s, and sold over 350,000 copies. This new edition, which returns this beautiful book to print, includes an appendix of historical materials about the book and author, as well as an introduction by Michael Bronski, author of such books as Culture Clash, The Pleasure Principle, and Pulp Friction.

(arsenalpulp.com )
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Review

Michael Bronski's introduction does a terrific job of placing the story in a context that is as meaningful now as it was fifty years ago.
Echo Magazine (Echo Magazine )

The best novel this reviewer has ever read on the theme of homosexuality.
The New York Times (New York Times )

At this moment in our social history, it is difficult for most American authors to write a novel about a homosexual affair without making either a tract or an apologia. Mr. Peters has done neither. Instead, he has kept resolutely in focus his great theme: the corruption and murder of innocence.
—Gore Vidal, The Saturday Review (Gore Vidal, Sat. Rev ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Fritz Peters was a novelist and writer of books on philosophy; his novels included The World Next Door (1949), The Descent (1952), and Blind Flight (1966). He lived mostly in New York City, but eventually moved to New Mexico, where he died in 1979.



Michael Bronski's books include Culture Clash, The Pleasure Principle, and Pulp Friction; he also wrote the introduction to the first Little Sister's Classic, Song of the Loon by Richard Amory, as well as to Finistere by Fritz Peters. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Life on Paper! July 18 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
A Timeless Masterpiece, this book should be mandatory reading for all High School Graduates. The ability with which the author Fritz Peters has captured life, and conveyed it with his pen, is stunning. Beyond being excellent reading for all, this book sheds light on what it is like for many people you know, but don't really know, to live here upon this earth amongst YOU! A million words could not explain it better than Fritz Peters's FINISTERE does. For Humanities sake and your own - read the book!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the earliest explicitly gay novels Feb. 25 1999
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Melodramatic to a fault, this book allows some of the typical early stereotypes to stand, especially that of the lead gay character dying (suicide) in the end. However, its historical value as one of the first explicitly 'gay' novels (despite the author, Arthur Anderson Peters, using a pseudonymn) is undiminished. It also offers a small slice of Paris's postwar gay nightlife during one sequence, and features an extremely sympathetic portrayal of its two gay characters, one a twenty-something French schoolteacher, the other a teenaged English student he saves from drowning.
Their tenderly drawn love affair and the strong character portrayals all-around make the book what it is. This deserves a wide audience, and even manages mostly to avoid its potential status as a period-piece.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "He had found his place in the world" June 8 2007
By Elliot - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
At the opening of this novel, set in the 1920s, after the breakdown of his parents' marriage, 12 year old Matthew is taken to live in Paris by his mother. His inexplicable adoration of an older, male family friend becomes clearer to Matthew when he is sent to a French boarding school and experiences his sexual awakening with another boy - who at 13 is a year older, and is everything Matthew is not. Such hero-worship is later replaced when, at 15, Matthew falls in love with one of his teachers, Michel, who is in his late-20s. Inevitably the pair then face their own internal struggles as well as the external ones against a hostile society.

Fritz Peters' characterisation beautifully captures the naïve, isolated Matthew, and the somewhat bitter, cynical Michel, along with exquisite three-dimensional portraits of the members of Matthew's family. And in Finistère, the father of most contemporary coming-of-age novels, the author expounds those timeless sensations of burgeoning gay self-awareness: Matthew's love for Michel "had made him come to life"..."The sense of guilt that had formed questions inside him, pointing an angry finger at him, vanished".

Lest this simple exposition suggest that Finistère is a 'typical' gay coming-of-age novel, it should be stressed that it was originally published as a mainstream novel in 1951 - clearly a bold move by the author in that era. This is reflected in the content of the novel, which, unsurprisingly, portrays the life of a gay man as a dangerous one, and since two men could not constitute a 'family', the only thing left was for homosexuality to be equated with furtive, underground sex and ultimately, loneliness. What is surprising for a novel of its time is the sympathetic portrayal of the two lovers, Matthew and Michel. Undoubtedly this imbues the novel with a particular historical significance, and it is fortunate that it has been revived by a collaboration between Arsenal Pulp Press and the Little Sister's bookstore.

Much more can (and no doubt will) be said by readers about the importance of this novel in its historical context and how it sheds light on the lives of gay people in our past. Indeed, the eminent Michael Bronski ('Pulp Friction' etc) introduces this new edition with fascinating insight into this aspect of the work. However, it may reasonably be asked why it is important to revive novels such as this, when contemporary gay coming-of-age literature abounds on our bookshelves. Leaving aside the fact that Finistère is a beautifully written and poignant novel in its own right, clearly historical literature is important as a yardstick by which we can assess how society has evolved over the years, and it is for this reason, even if no other, that Finistère - and other works of its era - need to be kept alive. While one can point to many changes in the treatment of gay men since the 1950s, Finistère - as with other coming-of-age novels, is ultimately about the internal struggle that a young gay person goes through in trying to find his place in a hostile society. It thus serves as a necessary reminder that the torment that Matthew undergoes in the novel still exists, more than half a century later, for the young gay person struggling to "arrive at the only place where he has ever really belonged" - and this is one reason why Finistère remains as pertinent today as it was in 1951.

Moreover, it is illuminative that the 'shock value' of the novel when first published was its sympathetic portrayal of gay characters - not their respective ages. Disturbingly, the novel still has potential 'shock value' today - precisely because the relationship involved is that of a 15 year old adolescent and a late-20s man. It is therefore apparent that persecution and hatred have not disappeared in the 50-odd years since Finistère was published - they have merely found a new, more convenient, target. Clearly Matthew's consensual relationship with Michel was highly significant ("What had happened to him was an end to all fear...Michel had brought him back to life") - and yet the Matthews of today are still legally denied such life-altering salvation.

Ultimately, therefore, Finistère remains a work of importance and deserves to be read - not only for the beautiful sorrow and passionate emotions that the novel itself engenders, but because it provides a milestone from which the evolution of our society since 1951 (or regression, indeed) can be measured - and accordingly evokes the legitimate question of whether the persecution of minorities for their nature has really abated, or whether in fact the oppression and demonization suggested in the era of Finistère is still being perpetrated today.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life on Paper! July 18 2000
By "arichnstlu" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
A Timeless Masterpiece, this book should be mandatory reading for all High School Graduates. The ability with which the author Fritz Peters has captured life, and conveyed it with his pen, is stunning. Beyond being excellent reading for all, this book sheds light on what it is like for many people you know, but don't really know, to live here upon this earth amongst YOU! A million words could not explain it better than Fritz Peters's FINISTERE does. For Humanities sake and your own - read the book!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read! Jan. 19 2009
By S. C. Matthews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It is tempting to write too long of a review here -- I wont -- simply because you deserve to get this book and read it on your own and not be given too many expectations. I will address, however, some complaints from other reviewers that seem to have forgotten the time in which the book was originally written and who seem to feel those issues are far behind us.
I know young men still go through the emotional debate that Matthew has with himself throughout the story. I know young men, who have relationships with older men, have to face the same sort of scrutiny and speculation that Matthew and Michel faced in the book as well.
The good fortune is that today we are, as a society, more capable of being accepting of gay love and of relationships between men in general. These things needn't be closeted or hidden -- they needn't be judged and looked down upon -- we needn't live in fear or fear to live.
I loved this book and I think anyone reading it with an open mind will love it also -- I hope you'll be the next!
5.0 out of 5 stars Where the land ends... July 20 2014
By S.P.G. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a coming of age story set in France. Matthew, which the story centers around, and his mother, move there after the parents divorce. She quickly finds a replacement, french suitor. Our boy, who I believe begins the novel at 13, sent to a boarding school. To try to encapsulate and not reveal to much, there is, A near death experience, an awakening awareness, A teachers love. A budding boys life continuing through 16. A look at this boys maturing age emotional and physical. Grown ups battling over this youths soul. It also puts a mirror up to a face, so be careful. I wonder, are there many gay men that couldnt put themselves in this novel as the main character? I did mention it was about a gay youth, right? Set in the mid/late 1920s which actually helps. As there is much intense introspection and very real verbal sparing. Sadly most is lost on our main character as he is unable to grasp onto without having had any of the life experience. For me it was a intense and satisfying read with many pages I reread as they had such emotional impact. If you dont have to put the book down at least once because the tears...I hope life HAS been that good to you. This book was about me. In the end. And to much to soon, can and does have its consequences. Do any of us get out of childhood without devastation? This book SHOULD be a movie, producers get this one while you can. Am glad for all those that brought this book back to print. IT IS GAY CLASSIC.
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps one of the saddest books ever written about gay love. March 17 2014
By dormouse3 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
While sad, Finisterre is also one of the most beautiful books about gay love. The brilliantly written moments of Matthew' s coming-of-age in the arms of his lover make the very depressing ending even harder to bear. I understand that in the mid-20th century, gay romances have to and badly but, looked at from the early 21st century, I find it almost too cruel. The book speaks volumes for the time it was written and the time it represents, so could be viewed as historically important. It is also a timeless story of love, very much worth reading.
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