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A CORNER OF THE VEIL: A Novel Hardcover – May 4, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (May 4, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684846675
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684846675
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 4.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #986,834 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

On Monday, May 24, 1999 at 8:32 p.m. precisely, Father Bertrand Beaulieu of the French Society of Casuists opens a thick, handwritten letter and makes a stunning discovery: "Six pages further, he was trembling. This time the proof was neither arithmetical, nor physical, nor esthetical, nor astronomical; it was irrefutable. The proof of God's existence had been achieved." One of the many delights in Laurence Cossé's darkly funny ecclesiastical thriller, A Corner of the Veil, is the fact that the reader must accept the existence of this proof on faith. Though a handful of characters read the letter and are profoundly affected by it, Cossé holds her cards (and her proof) close to the vest; we never see it. In Father Beaulieu's mind, however, there's no doubt that what he has is the real magilla. He hurries to his friend Father Hervé Montgaroult, who, after explaining in detail and at length why it is impossible to prove the Almighty's existence, reads the proof himself and instantly falls into a beatific meditation on a world without doubt:
There would be no such thing as success any longer: Do the sea or the sky have success? No more failure: Does a tree know failure? No more hierarchy among men: Is the night superior to the river?
Bertrand and Hervé bring the letter to their superior, Father Hubert Le Dangeolet, who refuses to actually read the thing and tells them to keep it absolutely secret until he can figure out what to do with it. Unfortunately, in a moment of bliss, Hervé has already revealed the monumental news to his sister, who happens to be married to a high-ranking official in the French government. Soon, word of it reaches the Prime Minister and before long the entire French cabinet is involved. Once politicians involve themselves in this momentous event, A Corner of the Veil really takes off--and Cossé demonstrates that elected officials are not the only political animals to reckon with. As the author pits priest against priest and pol against pol in a life-and-death struggle over the ultimate fate of the proof, God gets lost (literally) in the shuffle. By the end of this provocative, literary page-turner, you'll be wondering if it's the Almighty or the Devil pulling the strings. --Alix Wilber

From Publishers Weekly

This droll, paradoxical novel of theological manners, a bestseller and prize-nominee in France, is both provocative and thoroughly delightful. Father Bertrand Beaulieu, a member of a Jesuit-like order called the "Society of Casuits," opens a letter from a crank, a fellow who has already bombarded Beaulieu with numerous proofs of God's existence, all of them flawed. This one, however, demonstrates God's existence irrefutably in a mere six pages. Beaulieu is literally floored; when he recovers from his prostration, he rushes to show the letter to Father Herv? Montgaroult, who has the curious job of refuting all philosophical proofs of God. After reading this unquestionable one, Montgaroult finds himself in a state of bliss, wandering the streets of Paris. The two fathers take the proof to their superior, Hubert Le Dangeolet, who doesn't read the paper himself, but locks it in his safe. Dangeolet realizes in a flash that this proof means, potentially, the end of the order. As he explains to his superior, Father Waldenberg, "We can't have our whole Casuist province in France slipping into a way of life that is positively Franciscan, and the ecstatic branch at that." In a series of comical plot twists, the news keeps leaking out, to a select few, of course. The French prime minister, Petitgrand, demands to see the proof and is apparently so overwhelmed that he announces to his cabinet the coming reign of love. This news properly horrifies the ministers of justice, interior and economics, who see the whole structure of greed and aggressionAthe linchpins of modern societyAcollapsing. Not to speak of their jobs. Cosse falters a bit in finally summarizing the proof. Still, with tight, clever and confident prose, this novel performs a bit of a miracle itself by turning theology into farce.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

It is an awful little book.
Fernando Melendez
Definitely a great thought experiment, recommended to book groups or that weird philosophical friend who loves conspiracy theories and what ifs.
Andrew
There were so many people but I can not remember any of them.
LKRKMK@AOL.COM

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Larry L. Looney on April 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read with interest -- and a chuckle -- the complaints of some reviewers about the 'humor' in this novel. I found humor in abundance within its pages -- not the 'belly-laugh' sort of humor that we Americans have come to expect from TV sitcoms and films, but the 'wry smile' sort of humor that is more touching and subtle. Cosse's writing is both humorous and meaningful -- but there is a lot more to this little book than humor.
Interestingly enough, the book I read just prior to picking up this novel was Simon Mawer's THE GOSPEL OF JUDAS, in which a priest deals with the discovery of an ancient scroll that has the potential to destroy his church, the message within being one that repudiates all that Christianity has stood upon for nearly two thousand years. In A CORNER OF THE VEIL, the opposite occurs -- a manuscript is received by the Casuist order in France that proves, after hundreds of years and innumerable attempts by philosophers and thinkers, the irruftable existence of God.
It would seem that the church would look upon such a find as a victory of sorts -- everything they have been espousing over their history has been verified on paper, in terms that anyone can understand. And while it is true that those who read the proof -- spiritual and secular people alike -- are touched by it on the deepest possible level and reduced to tears of joy, the proof brings sheer terror and panic to the hierarchy of the church and state. Grim predictions are made that, if the proof is made public, it will mean the end of society as we know it, chaos, the end of the world.
The struggles and machinations the proof sets into motion are both humorous and thought-provoking.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By C. Kevin Smith on May 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Cossé's essay-length book has a provocative premise: How would proof of God's existence effect a secular modern government and its keepers? While the writing is swift and crisp, I was disappointed by the hasty, too-neat ending. (The concluding pages read as if the author had run out of steam, or interest.) Still, Cossé deserves credit for staging her intriguing scenario in a credible fictional landscape. The opening pages, when one of the characters walks across Paris at dawn, observing an awaking urban world he is convinced will be transformed by the divine good news, are especially strong and evocative--much more so than the later unfolding of the plot.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
While cosse delves deeply into THE problem of theology she skims the surface in a pleasant, albeit unfulfilling look at how the proof would effect believers and non-believers alike. The highlight is the reaction of those who have read the proof. While some of her insights are satirical without being trivial, those expecting an exploration of powerful theological ideas will surely be disappointed.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Being French, I read the book in its original language. I am very glad to discover that my American friends will be able to read this excellent book, full of surprises, with a very fine sense of humor and very well written.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By lvkleydorff on October 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is your basic French satire, starting from a simple point and then spiraling off into many thoughtful directions. A very, very funny book that also makes you think about the "what if" question. A wonderful exercise for the brain.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Allan Engelhardt on August 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
No matter what the publishers' reviews says, this book is not profound, it is not a thriller, and it is probably not worth your time.
Laurence Cosse has written a little book that makes fun of the Frensh establishment. That's all. It happens to mention "God" and therefore publishers feel obliged to say that it is "profound". It isn't. It is simply a litterary mechanism for getting to the French ecclesiatical establishment.
And it is not a "thriller". There is hardly even any story there. It moves from one little (usually 1, 1 1/2, or 2 pages) sketch to another, with only the weakest of excuses to bind them together. The individual scenes can be quite funny - especially if you have some previous knowledge and expereince of French culture and governance - but a collection of individual scenes does not make a story.
Find something more rewarding to read.
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By Andrew on April 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, though the ending falls a little flat. Definitely a great thought experiment, recommended to book groups or that weird philosophical friend who loves conspiracy theories and what ifs.

Nothing like a bunch of thinly veiled Jesuit jokes!
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Format: Hardcover
Very elusive, fittingly or ironically, about the actual proof of God that floors a few Casuists (read: Jesuits) and a French prime minister during the year before Y2K. The Parisian setting is underused, the characters probably stand ins for politicians or pundits that the original audience might recognize, and the tone's droll as you'd expect. Linda Asher's translation captures the worldly-wise ambiance of the original, I assume, and the results entertain.

Able to be perused (small size, big margins) in a single evening, the plot naturally keeps you guessing. As to the proof, the idea that God the Father is exposing Himself by imposing Himself upon man via Christ and the Spirit so people figure out (presumably) that the divine "becoming" permeates all of God's creation sums up the gist of the daring breakthrough. The difficulty is that Cosse teases us as she does the characters who try to penetrate the mystery of the document's contents. She, too, lifts up the veil's corner but she refuses to let us peek. We must watch others look inside.

This distancing, while it makes sense for her revelations, or their lack for the reader, may please some who wish like some in the pages not to know it all. The advantages of doubt articulated by prominent figures make for an intriguing meditation. I never thought of the shift that would happen if people could know God and how that might diminish rather than increase goodness.

You get some discussion of this scenario as the advisors in elite clerical and state realms battle over the social impacts of this proof.
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