Sunday, January 22, 2017

Canticle for Leibowitz

A Canticle for Leibowitz. Walter M. Miller Jr. 1959. 335 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Brother Francis Gerard of Utah might never have discovered the blessed documents, had it not been for the pilgrim with girded loins who appeared during that young novice's Lenten fast in the desert.

Premise/plot: Canticle for Leibowitz is divided into three parts: "Fiat Homo," "Fiat Lux" and "Fiat Voluntas Tua." Centuries pass between each part, I believe. Essentially what you need to know is that it's post-apocalyptic. The novel opens several centuries (at the very least) after nuclear disaster has wiped out society--at least as we know it. Knowledge is feared and simplicity embraced. A group of monks in the desert cling to what remains of book-knowledge. They memorize. They copy. They wait. They wait knowing that humanity may never be ready for their wisdom. Readers get to know a few monks in each part. The book is not bleak from cover to cover, however, by the end the message is that humanity is incapable of learning from their past mistakes and no matter how many centuries pass, humanity is always its own biggest threat.

My thoughts: This is the first time I ever-ever wished I'd paid more attention in Latin class. Just as Jane Eyre is sprinkled with French, this one is sprinkled with Latin. My general thoughts are that once is not enough to really get everything there is to get. I was reading for big-picture ideas, and not really savoring the details and looking for all possible meanings. My first impression is that it's good, but, depressing. Also thought-provoking.

Favorite quotes:
  • "How can a great and wise civilization have destroyed itself so completely?" "Perhaps," said Apollo, "by being materially great and materially wise, and nothing else." (119)
  • If you try to save wisdom until the world is wise, Father, the world will never have it. (208)
  • It never was any better, it never will be any better. It will only be richer or poorer, sadder but not wiser, until the very last day. (216)
  • The freedom to speculate is essential...(216)
  • Men must fumble awhile with error to separate it from truth, I think--as long as they don't seize the error hungrily because it has a pleasanter taste. (218)
  • If we're born mad, where's the hope of Heaven?" (240)
  • When mass murder's been answered with mass murder, rape with rape, hate with hate, there's no longer much meaning in asking whose ax is the bloodier. Evil, on evil, piled on evil.(259)
  • Too much hope for Earth had led men to try to make it Eden, and of that they might well despair until the time toward the consumption of the world.(264)
  • It is the soul's endurance in faith and hope and love in spite of bodily afflictions that pleases Heaven. (292)
  • The trouble with the world is me. (305)

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


hopeinbrazil said...

As a bibliophile and a Christian, I was fascinated by this book and the premise that the written word was preserved by the Church. This is not a genre that I read often, but I enjoyed being stretched.

Barbara H. said...

I remember looking into this once but not reading it. Maybe some day. Sounds like there is much food for thought in it.