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The Diary of a Country Priest Paperback – February, 1984

45 customer reviews

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Paperback, February, 1984
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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews Review

An idealistic young Catholic priest in an isolated French village keeps a diary describing the unheroic suffering and the petty internal conflicts of his parish. This may sound like a thin plot for a novel, but Diary of a Country Priest, by George Bernanos, remains one of the 20th century's most vivid evocations of saintly life. First published in 1937, Bernanos's Diary describes a faithful man's experience of failure. In his diary, the priest records feelings of inferiority and sadness that he cannot express to his parishioners. And as he approaches death, from cancer, the priest's saintliness remains unclear to him, but becomes undeniable to the reader. "How easy it is to hate oneself! True grace is to forget. Yet if pride could die in us, the supreme grace would be to love oneself in all simplicity--as one would love any one of those who themselves have suffered and loved in Christ." --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


Novel by Georges Bernanos, published in French as Journal d'un cure de campagne in 1936. The narrative mainly takes the form of a journal kept by a young parish priest during the last year of his troubled life. He records his spiritual struggle over what he perceives as the ineffectuality of his efforts to improve the lives of his impoverished and misguided parishioners. Physically, he battles a stomach ailment that local gossip attributes to drunkenness. His role in the conversion of a wealthy countess, who suddenly dies, aggravates his moral ambivalence and draws reproof from his superiors, as well as from the woman's family. His stomach condition worsens, and he seeks medical attention too late. In the deathbed ritual of absolution, however, he expresses an abiding faith that transcends his own and his fellows' failures. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 298 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf Pub (February 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0881840130
  • ISBN-13: 978-0881840131
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,020,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

97 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Ron Dionne on June 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
I tried to read this book several times since I first heard of it through watching the films of Robert Bresson twenty years ago. Only now have I been able to read it, and I think it is one of those books that you have to be "ready for" before you can appreciate it. It is not easy to read and it is certainly not congenial to contemporary laissez-faire attitudes toward religion, spirituality, sin and redemption. That said, it is one of the most powerful things one can read if one can hear it. And upon reading it a second time, one marvels at how fully thought out it is. The entire book is foreshadowed in the first chapter. It really is a marvelous bit of writing. If you're the sort of person who underlines quotable passages in books, bring an extra highlighter because there's a lot to quote from in this book.
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62 of 63 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
Bernanos's "Diary" represents that rarest of glimses into the clerical world: a view that is utterly convincing and completely enthralling! As the author pursues the early life and career of a French provincial Abbe, he simultaneously reveals the sufferings, triumphs, and struggles of the people that the young priest serves. Parallel to the tribulations of their lives, Bernanos lovingly shows how deeply one man, one priest can empathize with those he serves. While Bernanos never became a priest himself, his early life prepared him to write this, his greatest novel. The poignancy of this small novel is one that builds gradually. The impatient reader may, at first, not "connect" with the story, but the faithful reader will soon find that he/she cannot put it down. The last 30 pages of this work are one of the 20th century's masterpieces of spiritual prosody that I can identify.
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By "danilabagrov" on August 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Bernanos' classic is perhaps the most touching novel I've ever read. Its the story of a country priest whose parish is not very interested in religious matters. He deals with this, his personal problems, and Bernanos' descriptions of his struggles are profoundly emotional. I read this book a long time ago, but to this day I remember the impact it had on me. Such feeling and compassion I have never felt for any other fictional character (save Lord Jim). This work is truly a masterpeice. Reading it will change you, forever....
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Daniel B. Clendenin on January 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
Last year marked the 70th anniversary of Bernanos's powerful tale of a young and earnest parish priest in rural France who feels that he is a total failure. From a merely human perspective he is not mistaken. As is fitting, we never learn his name. The entire novel is a diary in which he confides his doubts and loneliness, his sense of futility, struggles with a sense of vocation ("Keep marching to the end, and try to end up quietly at the roadside without shedding your equipment."), powerlessness in the face of suffering, clashes with clergy colleagues, the history of his own family dysfunction, and even disgust with his own body due to chronic stomach pains and an impoverished diet. He knows he is physically clumsy and socially awkward. He describes his parishioners as bored, boring, and petty. They gossip about him as a "secret drinker" and a womanizer, both of which are laughable. The priest loves his flock; he visits every home every year, and he prays for them. He has a keen sense of history and his own obscure role to play. He is an astute observer of the weakness, frailty and fallenness of human nature, especially his own. By the time he dies of stomach cancer at a young age, Bernanos has painted a portrait of what we realize is a genuine saint. On his deathbed at the end of the book the priest confesses, "Does it matter? Grace is everywhere." Every person in ministry ought to read this book, but perhaps not until you turn fifty or so.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Aquinas on June 22, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is a treasure. It is definitely not for those who yearn for a syrupy and sentimental christianity, where a doting Father provides for, and panders to, all the needs of his spoiled children. This is gritty christianity where the Father asks those whom he loves deeply to ascend Calvary with his divine Son for the salvation of the world.

The young priest, being devoured by cancer, is a luminous icon of Christ and a true Father to his flock. Darkness gathers around him - he is ascending Calvary with his Divine Master and his cross is the cancer in his body and a piercing dark night of the soul. A kind of petty wickedness surrounds him; even the children whom he catechises appeared aged ("wizened" as the writer to the preface notes) and bereft of innocence. By contrast, he is forever young and he is the innocent one.

"Look: I'll define you a Christian people by the opposite. The opposite of a Christian people is a people grown sad and old" (page 18) says his old mentor the Cure de Torcy to the young priest.

The young priest is constantly struck by his inadequacies: he is a mere drop in the ocean of time and he notes with irony the priest's call: "We pay a heavy, heavy price for the superhuman dignity of our calling. The ridiculous is always to near to the sublime". (page 74)

He notes the kind of self deceptivity that people engage in when confessing their sins (who is not painfully aware of the truth of here words?): "Petty lies can slowly form a crust around the consciousness, of evasion and subterfuge. The outer shell retains the vague shape of what it covers, but that is all. In time, by sheer force of habit, the least "gifted" end by evolving their own particular idiom, which still remain incredibly abstract.
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