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Viper's Tangle (Loyola Classics) Paperback – September 1, 2005

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Product Details

  • Series: Loyola Classics
  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Loyola Classics (September 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0829422110
  • ISBN-13: 978-0829422115
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This audio edition of the 1932 novel is read in a straightforward fashion by Geoffrey Howard. An old man reflects on a life without love, without letting one's guard down even to one's family. His life's work seems to have been evading love. He has plotted to disinherit his wife and children from his considerable fortune. He explains the events and thoughts that led him to such a narrow, spiteful life in a series of letters to his wife, which are never shared with her. Mauriac creates Louis as a miserable old miser devoured by bitterness. In a quest to untangle the roots of his wretchedness, Louis begins writing his life story. As he tries to explain and to justify himself, his introspection leads him to see beyond his bitterness to a more profound, deeper understanding. Make no mistakes, there is no happy ending here. Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1952, Mauriac develops a character from the inside out, so to speak. The listener is able to move into Louis's mind, to feel and understand his motivation. The reading has little drama, as if the reader is plowing through pages of dictation. But, all in all, it rather suits the story. This is not likely to be popular with the average patron wanting recreational listening. Recommended for academic collections and large public libraries wanting to have a comprehensive audio collection.ANancy Paul, Brandon
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

One of the greatest Catholic novels of the twentieth century, Vipers’ Tangle is the story of Louis, an elderly man filled with bitterness who keeps a journal in which he records the vipers’ tangle of his own heart. With subtlety and wisdom, Mauriac traces the transfor­ma­tion of this tortured soul by the light of God’s grace.

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Customer Reviews

This book was very interesting, I read it in two days because I couldn't put it down.
Daniel Douglason
He even implicates the reader in Louis' sin-ridden life by suggesting that love requires patience and understanding--a willingness to reach out to souls in torment.
John Murphy
This book never mentions Catholicism, so I am not sure what makes this book "Catholic".
Nathan Pease

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Lara Simone on April 13, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am surprised that one of the reviews (referring to the AudioBook version) calls this novel sermonizing. I have read many of the Loyola classics, and I appreciate most of them as pleasantly innocuous novels with Christian themes, but of all that I have read so far, I find Viper's Tangle the most literary and the least didactic. It is also one of the most uncontrived conversion stories that I have ever read.

The protagonist of the story, a miserly old man close to death, tells of his bitterness towards his family and the world with great psychological acumen. He explains to the reader exactly how his hypocritical bourgeouis family has led him to go to great lengths in plotting to disinherit them. He despises his wife's Catholicism, and he offers an incredibly disturbing because realistic portrait of her narrow-mindedness, her failures of charity, even as he freely confesses his own wretched flaws.

What is extraordinary about the story is that his turn of heart begins to occur not as the result of an intervention by some saintly Christian character who shows him the "real meaning of faith." Small, chance discoveries occur that allow the protagonist to see his wife in a new light and allow him to realize that though she and her faith were indeed imperfect, like himself, she too hid complexities and anxieties within her. The religion that he held in contempt because it seemed so false and shallow begins to seem genuine as he gains a better picture of the role it played in her inner life, that he was too self-absorbed to see in the years she was alive.

I appreciate this book for its honest portrayal of imperfectly led Christian lives, and the (not-sermonizing) message that the individual members of the church can be both saint and sinner.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By John Murphy on February 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
I was very grateful when Ignatius Press sent a copy of this book to me to review for Catholicfiction.net. It's truly a "lost masterpiece," as other reviewers have noted. I thought I'd share a truncated version of my original review, as I feel this book deserves to be read by anyone who appreciates deep, if dark, stories with a profound spiritual element. Indeed, "Vipers' Tangle" is structured as a lengthy confession--sometimes a confession, sometimes a polemic, sometimes an invective--from Monsieur Louis, a wealthy retired lawyer of declining health who feels surrounded by a nest of vipers, his family. Yet the vipers' tangle is within as well as without.

The story bears a passing resemblance to Dickens' classic, "A Christmas Carol": a rich, "covetous old sinner" struggles against God's grace to find redemption. But where Dickens' tale had its author's infectious good-humor and largeness of spirit, Vipers' Tangle is an often disturbing journey to the heart of an odious man's mystery. In both stories, however, the ultimate point is that God's grace is accessible to anyone, even the most miserly old sinner.

Through his barrister narrator, a man very difficult character to stomach much less love, Mauriac is making a case of his own. By presenting the reader with a malevolent old man on his deathbed, the author's case is simply this: no one is beyond the reach of God's grace. Without romanticizing Louis, Mauriac expresses the tragedy of a wasted life, the tragedy of a man who has closed himself off from a community of love to wallow in his own despair. Louis is sinned against as well as sinning, but he reserves many of his harshest judgments for himself. He is honest, not hypocritical, and he often turns his cruelty inwards.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read Viper's Tangle (I believe my translation was "Nest of Vipers") in high school and became fascinated with Francois Mauriac. I went on to read some of his other works, including "The Desert of Love." This work is psychological and personal in nature. If you enjoy stories which probe characters' minds, this is an excellent choice. An invalid man lies in bed, dying, remembering his life and coming to terms with it, and himself. An unknown classic. Also great if you like to collect obscure literature!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Pease on December 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
I picked up the Vipers' Tangle in a "free book box" outside a small, Alaskan library. For weeks I had passed it by, put off by the cover blurb that described it as a "great Catholic novel". I was not sure how much in common I would have with a Catholic book. A few weeks later, the thin volume remained in the "free book box". Many others had passed over it as well. I glanced at it again and read a note that Mauriac had been awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature. That settled it; I was gonna read this "Catholic" novel.

Much to my surprise, I found it to be extremely subtle. I had expected a "Catholic" novel to be focused on the Catholic religion. This book never mentions Catholicism, so I am not sure what makes this book "Catholic". As far as I remember, Jesus Christ is never mentioned once. The thematic elements that could be construed as "religious" are slowly rolled into the narrative with little notice from the reader. From the beginning, the reader gets pushed and shoved by the voice of the narrator. This never really lets up. You are stuck with this guy. But his voice becomes the aether upon which all the other elements hang. [I noticed that one reviewer of this book was unable to read more than 60 pages of this guy complaining about his life. I understand how she felt, but I found the narrative too compelling to put the book down].

This novel isn't about a "journey" or a "process". There isn't some miraculous scene of forgiveness, love, or redemption. Instead, the reader is left with a hint of perfume in the room; it is really too little to notice, but nevertheless you'll smell it and wonder if the Lord had just walked through the room, behind your back, while you were reading.
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