Category: Christianity

Hanne Ørstavik: Presten (The Pastor)

The latest addition to my website is Hanne Ørstavik‘s Presten (The Pastor). The eponymous pastor is Liv. She had worked in southern Germany where she had befriended Kristiane but when Kristiane killed herself, she had applied for and got a job in the far North of Norway. However, things do not go well, not least because she had trouble fitting in and clearly does not have the right temperament to be a pastor, finding it difficult to comfort people in distress. She has also been working on a doctoral thesis on a Sami rebellion in 1852, which took place near where she is now working, and realises that the connection between the two cultures is Christianity – the Sami seemed to have adopted a more fervent Christianity at the time – while language, ultimately the language of the Bible, not at that time available in Sami, is also important. However the struggles of Liv and other women characters are the key to this book.

Vladimir Sharov: Будьте как дети (Be As Children)

The latest addition to my website is Vladimir Sharov‘s Будьте как дети (Be As Children) . This is the third of Sharov’s novels to be translated into English and, in my view, the best. There are three main stories (and several sub-stories): the story of a noble woman who becomes a a Holy Fool, a bandit who sees the light and becomes the religious guide to a Siberian tribe and the story of Lenin’s last days when, following two strokes, he becomes more childlike and more interested in the role of children and starts to consider them as the only true proletariat. These and other stories all link and go off on tangents as we follow the idea of sin and innocence, innocence being represented by children, and the deeper and more fascinating byways of Russian history, including its Christianity, its non-Slavonic tribes and its wilderness. It is a wonderfully long, complex and thoroughly original novel and a first-class read.

Amélie Nothomb: Soif [Thirst]

The latest edition to my website is Amélie Nothomb‘s Soif [Thirst]. Nothomb had long been planning to write her Jesus novel but had not felt able to do so till 2019. It tells his story, from his point of view, from the trial to the resurrection. This is not your conventional religious novel, as this Jesus, while aware of his deity is very much a human being, one who feels pain (and thirst), love and admiration for his parents and romantic love for Mary Magdalene. We follow him through his trial, night in prison, stations of the cross, crucifixion and resurrection and he tells us both how he is feeling, while giving us his views on humans, on God, on how he will be received and on what he did and why. He is critical of some of the conventional views of what he did and said (as reported in the Bible), bitter when the beneficiaries of his miracles criticise him, and explains how thirst is a key human feeling.If you are very religious, you might feel some concern about this approach but, for the rest of us, it is an interesting point of view.

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