Novels by Karen Stephen...

Photos of Corsica for Mother Tongue

MOTHER TONGUE - Lingua Corsa
My real adventure in Corsica in 1963
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Mègliu solu ché mali accumpagnatu. (Azilonu)

Mieux vaut être seul que mal accompagné.

It's better to be alone than to have bad companions.

Photos from a trip to Corsica in 2006 and elsewhere illustrating the locales of MOTHER TONGUE with correcsponding excerpts from the novel.

Lake at top of Restonica Valley
Granite mountains of Corsica

Liz braced herself as Antoine Scafani maneuvered his little blue Citroen over the butt-jolting mixture of gravel and small boulders on the road, if you could call it that, leading from Calacuccia. Her gaze rose to the distant granite peaks that ripped through the sky like the teeth of a giant lumberjack’s saw. As the bitter sweet scent of the Corsican maquis floated in through the window, she forgot all about trying to figure out if Scafani was linked to the disappearance of Pierre Benatar and his young son, but only for a moment.

The tools of the Signadora
Where Mrs. Standhope discovers her destiny

"The signadora poured water into an ordinary white soup bowl and made the sign of the cross over it. Then she dipped her finger in a receptacle of oil and let several drops fall into the water. That’s when she told me to hold the bowl in my hands.”

“And did you?”

“Not at first, but I'd come all that way. I’d even hoped that she might cure my arthritic hip. But the Professor said she could only assess my health in a general and determine if I was suffering from the Evil Eye.”

“Were you?”

“Well, that’s the thing. I never found out. The woman mumbled some prayers and went into a kind of trance. She poked at the oil with her little finger, trying to make it all glob together. Then, without any warning, a stream of utterly unintelligible words just poured out of her mouth. I looked down at the bowl. The oil had congealed into one big, dark blob. She grabbed it out of my hands and hurled it out through the open window. The water and oil sprayed all over me. Like a baptism gone terribly wrong.”

The Indochine villa...
...where Antoine takes Elizabeth in Niolo

The words were barely out of her mouth when Scafani pulled up to a dilapidated French colonial villa, its crumbling walls stitched together with ivy.

“My God, it looks like it belongs on some street in Saigon,” she said, “not in this God-forsaken hamlet.”

Scafani only smiled and offered her a hand out of the car. He wrenched open the rusty wrought-iron gate and ushered her past two chipped and faded porcelain lions. An elderly man with wispy white hair straggling out from under a coolie hat stood waiting for them on the veranda. Liz sensed that his black knee-length tunic and white trousers were more affectation than Vietnamese.

“Good to see you, old friend,” Scafani called out.

The man scampered down the stairs and kissed Scafani on b


An FLNC funeral...
flnc_funeral.jpg Corte

Liz felt her heart jump into overdrive as a funeral procession, moving at a solemn pace, emerged from the alleyway. A crucifer elevating a golden cross and an acolyte bearing a two-foot candle preceded a red robed priest. Behind, Henri Soriano’s casket loomed into view. A Corsican flag, with its silhouette of a black Moor’s head wrapped in a defiant white headband, covered the simple wooden box.


The cemetery at Bonifacio...
...where final goodbyes are said.

Liz shook her head in disbelief as they continued to walk, skirting the deserted two-story military barracks, their walls riddled with automatic weapon fire and covered with separatist graffiti.  Reaching the cemetery, Liz stared at the elaborately styled neighborhood of family crypts, created in a hodgepodge of architectural styles.  Some even had a Moorish theme, but stone crosses atop their domed roofs identified them as Christian. They wound their way between the tombs until they could overlook the sea, which pounded against the base of the white cliffs hundreds of feet down.