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I Who Have Never Known Men

3.99  ·  Rating Details  ·  380 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
A work of fantasy, I Who Have Never Known Men is the haunting and unforgettable account of a near future on a barren earth where women are kept in underground cages guarded by uniformed groups of men. It is narrated by the youngest of the women, the only one with no memory of what the world was like before the cages, who must teach herself, without books or sexual contact, ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published April 8th 1997 by Seven Stories Press (first published 1995)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,214)
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Kim Z
Sep 20, 2007 Kim Z rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: thinkers/philosophers/learners
Shelves: goodstuff, novels, sci-fi
The library categorizes this as sci-fi. The situation puts it in that genre, but the story is much simpler. A woman has grown up imprisoned with a group of other women. She has no memory of a world outside their mysterious bunker. The book is the story of a woman learning to think and live without exposure to what most would consider a normal society.

Many reviews say how this book explores "what it means to be human." It does that in a way, but that description makes it sound far more pretentio
...more
Dan
Jan 25, 2009 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 stars because I've never shaken it.
Probably because I found myself thinking the other day about Oryx and Crake and then realized their "Last Person on Earth" genre similarities made them genial companions.
It's a haunting book where women are imprisoned by men for no real reason in a hidden bunker--and then one day, the men leave, the women are freed--but everyone else is dead and gone.
It's a slow and dreary wind-down to the conclusion. I wanted to hate it, I should hate it--and yet I don't. In
...more
Sandi
Feb 08, 2008 Sandi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book about seven years ago and still think about it to this day. It is like nothing I've ever read before or since. The concept is simple yet profound. The writing (I believe it was translated from the french original but I could be wrong) is stark and simple, fitting the story perfectly. I can't recommend this book enough.
Susan
Jun 11, 2011 Susan rated it really liked it
This is a thought-provoking read. It was listed under the post-apocalypse-futuristic-dystopia genre, but in my mind, it's much more of a psychological-sociological thriller. (That won't make it sound appealing to many, since I may be one of a very small group who would consider sociology to be thrilling. But for that very small group--this is a gem!)

A group of women and one child are kept locked up in an underground cave following an unspecified apocalypse. The unnamed child is the only one who
...more
Laura Teague
Jan 15, 2011 Laura Teague rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read the edition with the alternative title 'Mistress of Silence' which I think sounds a lot better than the other one.
It's a strange story set maybe in the future or on another planet about a young girl who suddenly becomes aware of her surroundings. She (she's never given a name)lives in an underground bunker with a group of women, who are all much older than her. The women have memories of their former lives but no understanding of how they came to be in the bunker.

They live a very basic li
...more
Jesse Sprague
Oct 24, 2014 Jesse Sprague rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I admit I have a soft spot for end of the world novels. This one, however, sat on my bookshelf for probably two years unread because I just wasn't up to a feminist view of an apocalypse. I am delighted I finally got around to reading it as it wasn't at all what I thought it was.

First off the title is quite literal and had nothing to do with men cloistering women away or abusing them. The girl whose viewpoint we see from has simply never known men. The only existence she knows is one locked away
...more
Zola
Jul 14, 2012 Zola rated it liked it
I wish I could have read this in its original language. Translated from the French, "I Who Have Never Known Men" is like the sound of a broken bell. It is jarring, disquieting, and profoundly saddening. The story carries you along through the mind of a female creature, I would hardly put her down as human, and yet it is a story about the loss of one's humanity.

I would love to research the origins of this book, and Jacqueline Harpman's personal history.
Caitlin
This one is weird and very depressing, we never get answers to the questions asked. But some how this book pulls it off. But it leaves you thinking and wondering and I'm not sure if I will ever get it out of my head.
Yaya
Jun 18, 2015 Yaya rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Man, this was BLEAK. It was kind of interesting. This book does not offer any sense of closure. I didn't think it would, but it didn't keep me from wanting it to. This is all about a woman, which remains nameless the entire time, telling us her life's story, starting with having no recollection of her life before being thrown in a cage with 39 other women as a child. She's the youngest and the only one amongst these women that has zero knowledge of life before being imprisoned. While these women ...more
Annette
Sep 21, 2007 Annette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
If I had to pigeonhole this, I guess I'd put it in SciFi. This book haunted me well after I put it down.

Who are we as a society without our history? What makes us human?

A girl wakes up, imprisoned in a cage with 39 other women. She has no memory of who she is or how she got there. The other women reveal and conceal much about what has happend - pandemic, nuclear disaster, it's never clear.

Eventually, the women escape their cage and begin to roam the landscape. Only to find themselves still al
...more
The Lost Lola
I bought this book 13 years ago and just now sat down to read it. Harpman writes a hauntingly realistic science fiction story set in a post apocalyptic world where a group of 40 women are imprisoned for unknown reasons. They live out their lives behind bars guarded by masked men who will not speak to them or let them know why they are imprisoned. The story is told from the point of view of the youngest resident, a girl on the cusp of puberty who has no name and no recollection of a world before ...more
Emily Warfield
Jun 30, 2016 Emily Warfield rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A bleak, beautiful, deeply moving allegorical story.
Ieva
Un atkal jau mani uzpirka grāmatas nosaukums.
Ļoti nosacīti tā izrādījās distopija, bet tās ir tikai vārgas dekorācijas tam, kāpēc galvenā varone ir (nav) audzināta sabiedrībā un kāpēc paliek galā viena pati visā pasaulē. Tās ir tik ļoti nesvarīgas dekorācijas, ka mēs zinām tikai tik, cik varone pati - (view spoiler)
...more
Lucie Lacoste
J'avais commencé à lire Moi qui n'ai pas connu les hommes il y a deux ans sans le finir.

Dans ce livre, 40 femmes dont une plus jeune que les autres "la petite" se retrouvent enfermées pendant plusieurs années dans une cave toutes ensembles surveillées par des gardiens. Elle ne savent pas comment elles sont arrivées là ni pourquoi elles sont là. La petite, qui est arrivé dans la cave très jeune, ne connaît pas la vie d'avant. Un jour une sonnerie retentit et les gardiens partent en laissant la cl
...more
Sooz
Dec 20, 2012 Sooz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i've wanted to read this book for years. because i am a fan of sci fi and post apocalyptic. because the title is intriguing. and because it had a pretty good rating here on Goodreads.

i don't think it is particularly well known - or easily found in the usual bookstores - new or used - but it is readily available on Amazon.

so .... given i've wanted to read it for years? was it worth it? yeah. i'd say it was.

it is short and rather sparse which perfectly mirrors the sparse plain landscape, as well a
...more
Laura
I only discovered this book last year, but it instantly earned a spot on my top ten books of all time.

A young girl, nameless even to herself, grows to womanhood imprisoned with a group of women. None of them know why they are there or what has happened in the outside world. For a time they are silently guarded by a small group of uniformed men, but they are forbidden from asking questions. When sirens break the monotony, the men disappear, and the women are forced to escape to avoid starvation.
...more
Phil
Jun 15, 2014 Phil rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm giving this three stars because it was so well written but it is quite sad.Some horror has enslaved the heroine and her people underground and killed most of those above ground. The heroine and her small tribe of women escape to the above ground and do their best to make a limited life for themselves. Don't expect any happy endings.
Sloane
Jul 08, 2016 Sloane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is interesting, however you get absolutely no answers to any questions which is extremely annoying. With that being said I have found myself pondering the books theme and meaning for the past several days so maybe that means it did more for me than just provide a means of entertainment.
Sheree
Mar 11, 2014 Sheree rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It is simply written and not broken up into chapters. It seems to just be separated into two parts. The character makes you think about life, living, the point of survival and purpose. Even though it is rather bleak and heartbreaking, I couldn't help but love the book.
Stephanie
Jan 08, 2015 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating read which I can't come to say I "liked," but which deeply affected me. The premise itself is straightforward enough: women in cages who must make some decisions and try to understand the meaning of their lives.

It has similar haunting qualities and starkness to Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go." But while the latter is a straightforward examination of an ethical concept, "I Who Have Never Known Men" is much more ambiguous. Rather than a message, it is a mood, a question, a blea
...more
Ken Stemme
Jun 13, 2016 Ken Stemme rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredibly evocative. Compelling- I kept turning the pages. Don't expect answers- just a lot of questions- for the narrator and yourself.
Her Royal Orangeness
The Mistress of Silence by Belgian author Jacqueline Harpman is a sci-fi/dystopia/post-apocalypse novella about a group of women who have been imprisoned underground for many years and how they survive when they manage to escape. The premise is interesting and Harpman creates a vivid and believable scenario. The pacing is suspenseful and the characters believable (especially considering the very strange circumstances in which they find themselves). I think I missed most of the philosophical impo ...more
Talya
What does it mean to be a woman, a person, or an animal. A young woman is imprisoned with 39 other women. They are guarded by men who never talk to them or give them any idea of what is going on or why they are there. The other women have memories of their lives outside but the young woman, who doesn't have a name, doesn't remember living anywhere else. They escape after mysterious circumstances. I don't want to give anything away so I won't continue. I enjoyed the book, but found it depressing, ...more
Stephanie
Jun 24, 2014 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you like your books depressive, thought-provoking, and with a post-apocalyptic feel then this is the book for you.
Adam
Oct 13, 2007 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of absurdity and heartbreak
Her first novel translated into English (and only to my knowledge), and on the basis of this one I can’t wait for more. An unnamed Proustian narrator builds the story piece by piece as she recounts the harrowing and absurd account of being one of forty women imprisoned by three men and eventually abandoned to effect a kind of escape. Their attempts to recreate the elements of society are both heartbreaking and oddly affecting. Their questions about their world and their eventual fate are room fo ...more
Shira and Ari Evergreen
Mar 09, 2010 Shira and Ari Evergreen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: men, women, psychologists, capitalists
Shelves: scifi, gender
This book was unexpectedly a new favorite! It got me thinking about life and gender and sexuality and truth and capitalism and even the nature of our species, and was so very mysterious and compelling I then read it through a second time, immediately, to see if I could find more clues and better answers. It's a dystopia, a very personal one, and it really keeps you guessing.

After I read it (the second time) I was so wowed I looked for other folks' thoughts on it online and found that it has a bi
...more
Tricia Toney
May 28, 2016 Tricia Toney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was haunting and beautiful
Sheila
Sep 11, 2015 Sheila rated it really liked it
Well, this certainly left me with a whole bunch of unanswered questions, yet it was still highly engrossing and thought provoking. And creepy, very creepy!

I'm not sure if this is apocalyptic, as no disaster is ever described, though some bodies are found wearing gas masks, and while it is dystopian, I'm not sure what world this is even set in, as that is all left a mystery too.

Everything in the story is seen through the eyes on one woman, who was a child when whatever occurred occurred, and she
...more
B.
Jul 09, 2015 B. added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
a story that lingers with you
Maurina
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Jacqueline Harpman was born in Etterbeek, Belgium, in 1929. Being half Jewish, the family moved to Casablanca when the Nazis invaded, and returned home after the war. After studying French literature she started training to be a doctor, but could not complete her medical studies when she contracted tuberculosis. She turned to writing in 1954 and her first work was published in 1958. In 1980 she qu ...more
More about Jacqueline Harpman...

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