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A Canticle for Leibowitz Mass Market Paperback – June 1, 1984
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Walter M. Miller's acclaimed SF classic A Canticle for Leibowitz opens with the accidental excavation of a holy artifact: a creased, brittle memo scrawled by the hand of the blessed Saint Leibowitz, that reads: "Pound pastrami, can kraut, six bagels--bring home for Emma." To the Brothers of Saint Leibowitz, this sacred shopping list penned by an obscure, 20th-century engineer is a symbol of hope from the distant past, from before the Simplification, the fiery atomic holocaust that plunged the earth into darkness and ignorance. As 1984 cautioned against Stalinism, so 1959's A Canticle for Leibowitz warns of the threat and implications of nuclear annihilation. Following a cloister of monks in their Utah abbey over some six or seven hundred years, the funny but bleak Canticle tackles the sociological and religious implications of the cyclical rise and fall of civilization, questioning whether humanity can hope for more than repeating its own history. Divided into three sections--Fiat Homo (Let There Be Man), Fiat Lux (Let There Be Light), and Fiat Voluntas Tua (Thy Will Be Done)--Canticle is steeped in Catholicism and Latin, exploring the fascinating, seemingly capricious process of how and why a person is canonized. --Paul Hughes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Extraordinary ... chillingly effective.”— Time
“Angry, eloquent ... a terrific story.”— The New York Times
“An extraordinary novel ... Prodigiously imaginative, richly comic, terrifyingly grim, profound both intellectually and morally, and, above all ... simply such a memorable story as to stay with the reader for years.”— Chicago Tribune
“An exciting and imaginative story ... Unconditionally recommended.”— Library Journal
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
The story has three parts. With all of them being quite dark. Basically, humanity becomes barbaric by purging knowledge and learning. Then they recover and become advanced bringing space age. But again due to conflict, everything ends with a nuclear war.
I am just amazed how Miller wrote such a novel during the 1940-1950s.
It is so well written and so captivating!
Hope someone makes a movie~
The book is divided into 3 sections, each 600 years apart. It begins with monks, of all things, in a post-nuclear dark age, followed by a slow rebirth of technology in the next section, and presenting the threat of another nuclear war in the final section. The mission of the monks throughout is to collect and protect the remnants of science, history and religion from that lost age.
The first section is charming, the central character comical in his religious fervor and naivete. My favorite idea from this section is his discovery of a fallout shelter from before. The word 'fallout' has terrible connotations but no practical idea of what it actually is, so it is pictured as a demon. When he discovers a 'fallout shelter', he believes it to be a safe place for the fallout (demons) to reside, so carefully does not disturb it (them). Oh, and some of the gibberish Latin is pretty funny, too.
In the next 2 sections, what becomes most remarkable is the interpretation put on the thoughts and actions of the characters we've now come to know. They are unrecognizable as the people we've seen, which allows for a greater clarity when considering the lengths the monks have gone to to protect the artifacts like the 'Sacred Shopping List' that survived from before the dark age. Assigning importance and motive to remnants and actions recorded from history allows for colossal miscommunication and misdirection.
This is an old book, first published in 1959, but new to me. The nuclear threat was as heavy in those days as it is again in ours. This is a terrific work of imagination that was, I believe, the result of living under the threat of nuclear attack and trying to see though the fear and the fog to what might be beyond. The great question it asks is are we doomed to complete the cycle - repeatedly?
Set over three time periods, it describes a future society a few hundred years after world-wide nuclear annihilation or the 'Flame Deluge" as it's remembered, when mankind is starting to recover. The backlash to nuclear war has been the 'Simplification' where all books are burnt and educated people killed to prevent to prevent any re-invention of the weapons that destroyed the world. A Jewish electronic engineer, Isaac Leibowitz who survived established a monastery in the Utah desert and charged the monks with collecting as much written material as they can and keeping it safe in a fortified monastery. In the second time period, some six centuries later man is emerging from the dark ages, science is being re-invented and the 'memorabilia' kept by the monks is rediscovered and inspected for the knowledge it contains. In the final time period another 600 years later, man has travelled to the stars and formed new colonies but has reinvented weapons and Earth is once again on the brink of destruction.
There is much humour in the story - in the many characters with all their human imperfections as well as in the worship of ancient writings (like Leibowitz's shopping list and circuit diagram), but there are also many serious issues for consideration just as pertinent to today as to the middle of last century. There is the ever topical battle between science and religion as well as the question of whether euthanasia should be allowed for people doomed to die. The biggest question of course, is whether as a civilization are we doomed to keep fighting and killing each other over religion, race or land with ever more powerful weapons or will be at some stage grow up and evolve beyond that?
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