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Viper's Tangle (Loyola Classics) Paperback – September 1, 2005
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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 the Audio CD edition.
"The introduction and notes provide important context and background, and help in bringing this masterpiece of twentieth-century fiction to life for the modern reader. Allusions to other works and to elements of French culture are explained concisely and helpfully, and special emphasis is given to the Catholic themes and ideas in the book, guiding the reader toward a richer and deeper interpretation. I feel sure Mauriac would be delighted with this edition." ~Raymond N. Mackenzie, University of St. Thomas (Minnesota)
"In this new edition of Vipers’ Tangle, the reader gains fresh insight into Mauriac’s riveting tale of sin and conversion by way of O’Malley’s incisive introduction and notes. The nuances and movements of the main character’s heart and soul are laid bare for a fuller understanding of the sometimes dramatic and circuitous journey to God." ~Gregory Haake, C.S.C., University of Notre Dame
"This new edition of Vipers’ Tangle is a gift. With its helpful introduction and notes by Timothy O’Malley, the novel translates well into our contemporary moment with a wisdom and vitality that transcends its age. In these days of cynicism, bitterness, and fear, Mauriac’s tale of the gradual but unrelenting work of divine love in the cold heart is especially important. The novel reminds us that there is no force in earth or heaven stronger than grace." ~Matthew A. Rothaus Moser, Loyola University Maryland --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Top customer reviews
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. To acknowledge this, even to be laid psychologically bare, with all one's faults, before a non-believer, does not discredit Christ but is evidence of his mercy.
My review may make this book sound explicitly theological, but Mauriac does not beat the reader over the head with theology. The real strength of this book is its exquisite prose and psychological realism. So many modern novels have unabashedly delved into the rottenness of the human soul, but this book gives voice to the great Hope that is Christianity, that rottenness, in all its forms and stages, does not preclude redeemability.
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.
This is a story of redemption. But it is not a soft or sentimental. Nor is it pious or in any way manipulative. Rather, it is the story of a man coming to terms with the evil in his soul, and in the end beginning to let go.