Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination


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, the essential human emotions of longing, loving, learning, companionship, and dying. Part thriller, part mystery, I Who Have Never Known Men shows us the power of one person without memories to reinvent herself piece by piece, emotion by emotion, in the process teaching us much about what it means to be human.


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“Carefully crafted, this novel is both unusual and thought-provoking.”

“Beautifully written …”

“It is surprising that a book with the psychological detail of a nightmare elicits in the reader feelings of such profound intensity.”

“The delirium of I Who Have Never Known Men suggests the work of a feminine Kafka.”

“Harpman says here all there is to say about dignity and the difficulty of remaining human in the face of suffering.”


Jacqueline Harpman (1929–2012) was born in Etterbeek, Belgium. Her family moved to Casablanca to avoid persecution when the Nazis invaded, and returned home after the war. After studying French literature Harpman began training to be a doctor, but became unable to complete her medical studies after contracting tuberculosis. She turned to writing in 1954, and her first book was published in 1958. In 1980 Harpman qualified as a psychoanalyst and continued to practice throughout her life. She had given up writing after her fourth book was published in 1966, and resumed her career as a novelist only some twenty years later. Harpman wrote over 15 novels and won numerous literary prizes, including the Prix Médicis for Orlanda.