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Black Robe [Paperback]

Brian Moore
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 20 2011 0771094264 978-0771094262
Black Robe, an account of the 17th-century encounter between the Huron and Iroquois the French called "Les Sauvages" and the French Jesuit missionaries the native people called "Blackrobes," is Brian Moore's most striking book. No other novel has so well captured both the intense--and disastrous--strangeness of each culture to one another, and their equal strangeness to our own much later understanding.

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A Belfast native who immigrated to Canada in the 1940s and then retained Canadian citizenship as he continued his travels, Brian Moore was a master of both the domestic drama, like his early Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, and the political thriller, as in his marvellously economical novels like Lies of Silence. In between, he wrote his most striking book, Black Robe, an account of the 17th-century encounter between the Huron and Iroquois the French called "Les Sauvages" and the French Jesuit missionaries the native people called "Blackrobes." No other book has so well captured both the intense--and disastrous--strangeness of each culture to one another, and their equal strangeness to our own much later understanding. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Moore is at the height of his considerable powers as a narrator."
— Colm Tóibín

"A rousing, terrifying, breathtakingly paced adventure."
— People

"A remarkable tour de force....Compulsive reading."
— Sunday Telegraph

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Heart of Darkness" in North American snow. Feb. 19 2002
Format:Paperback
Discussing Black Robe, the author said, "...I'd never written a book like this before. I didn't want to write an historical novel because I don't particularly like historical novels... I wanted to write this as a tale. I thought of it in terms of authors I admire, like Conrad. I thought of Heart of Darkness, a tale, a journey into an unknown destination, to an unknown ending." He was inspired to write Black Robe through his own experience of the vast Canadian landscape, the severe winter climate, and his own travels up and down the St. Lawrence River. His discovery of American historian Francis Parkman's study entitled "The Jesuits in North America" led Moore on a quest of further research, and soon he began to wonder... what if he had been fool enough to become a Jesuit and land himself in this Canadian wilderness, surrounded by people who seemed highly intelligent and terrifying all at once, and near impossible to convert? Black Robe was born.
It is set in the early seventeenth century. The zealous Jesuit missionary Father Laforgue must make a perilous journey up the Ottawa River to a remote outpost in order to to relieve an ailing priest of his duties there. After receiving permission from the Commandant, who is none other than Samuel Champlain, Laforgue sets off for Ihonatiria with his young apprentice Daniel Davost, and a convoy of canoes piloted by the native Algonkin guides. The trip proves to be even more perilous than was anticipated and Moore's tale becomes an experiment in bringing the character of the committed priest Laforgue to the limits of his beliefs and his ability to endure. And it pains him to watch Daniel's own spiritual disintegration.
This tale is superb in how it shows the clash of these two almost infinitely different cultures...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Blood gurgled forth from the child's mouth" May 27 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
In the introduction to his novel, 'Black Robe', Brian Moore says he got his factual information from a collection of letters that the Jesuit missionaries sent home from early Quebec. That's fortunate since his portrayal of the Iroquois and other Amerinds of the 17-century would otherwise seem slanderous.
For those who aren't familiar with the plot, Father Laforgue - a Jesuit misssionary - is sent by his house on a journey from Quebec up the St. Lawrence to the Huron territory in the early 17th century. He is to replace another priest at the misson there who may have been killed. He travels by canoe with a group of Algonquin who have been charged with his protection by Samuel Champlain. Along the journey, he is abandoned by most of the Algonquin, and he and his remaining companions are captured by the Iroquois. After escaping, he finally reaches his destination.
I came to the novel via the film, and, despite the brutality protrayed in it, the director left out the most graphic scenes. Rather than simply killing Chomina's 10-year-old son, the Iroquois cook and eat the child in front of his father and sister. Father Laforgue masturbates when he stumbles on Daniel and Anuka mating in the forest. Anuka performs oral sex upon another Frenchman - who has gone native - in front of Daniel. The translation of the Amerinds' speech is as filled with scatological terms as that of a contemporary teenager (which makes them sound perversely modern). The Algonquin allow their children to have sex with each other and with the Frenchmen.
Obviously, Laforgue finds all of this more than shocking and has trouble maintaining his faith in face of such insults to his beliefs.
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By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I've seen the movie adaptation of this story as well as read the book. Both are very good at depicting life during the early to mid-17th century in French-claimed territories of North America. What the book better describes is how the Native Americans (in spite of their Pagan ideologies) are better "Christians" than their European counterparts. The Jesuits are depicted as ruthless colonialists who are set on incorporating their beliefs (most of which contradict true biblical teachings!)onto "their" territories of "New France." As a result, it's very hard for me personally to really feel anything for any of them except indignation and anger (Laforge, the title character performs some really stupid actions within the story!).
Historically though, this story is very true in nature; the European settlers were in fact brutal, selfish, and bigoted.
One interesting note: Brian Moore the author is credited for both the book and the film's screenplay, yet the book is loaded with profanity while the film is nearly void of any such language.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Historical novel of ideas March 11 2001
Format:Paperback
The late lamented Bian Moore often inhabited worlds where graham greene had become master{though Moore was not very far behind.} The world of moral ambiguities,the world that we live in. In Black Robe he takes this to another level, telling the tragic story of the Jesuit missions to Canada and the Huron. It tells the story of a zealous,pious younf Jesuit,his assistant, and the native people who help them. Loosely based on the life of Jean de Brebouf{who pened the famous Chrstmas carol,the huron carol and suffered an unbelievable,torturous death},young Fr.Laforgue,who is woefully prepared for this stumbles into one situation after another.His zeal,though, becomes tempered by compasion,and his character is not one dimensional.Eventuallly, he is abandoned and finds the huron mission he set out for, leaving the then village of quebec all those miles and deaths ago. the viloence is quite graphic[including the death of a child which stayed with me for some time}.the ending,where lafaogue finds the village sick with fever,agreeing to be baptized if the Blackrobes wil cure them.The ending is chilling and superb and all the more so since it actually happened.One of Moore's best,which says a great deal.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A view of colonialism which is not politically correct...
This novel shows the "natives" of Quebec not merely as the victims of more powerful colonial powers but also weak because in their trading with the French, they... Read more
Published on March 3 2002 by Arthur C. Hurwitz
4.0 out of 5 stars Unsettling exploration of "strange" others
The late Brian Moore delivers an historically grounded novel that vividly and disburbingly explores how two distinct cultural worlds can view each other as strange, dangerous, and... Read more
Published on Feb. 28 2001 by "rrr338"
5.0 out of 5 stars great, underrated writer
When Brian Moore died on January 11th of this year (1999), we lost one of our best serious novelists. Read more
Published on Oct. 11 2000 by Orrin C. Judd
5.0 out of 5 stars Culture Clash
If you want to be known for writing a great novel in the historical fiction genre, you must do three things. First you must be able to tell a good story. Read more
Published on Sept. 1 2000 by Paul McGrath
4.0 out of 5 stars Reality Is What It Used To Be
Brian Moore's fine novel, Black Robe, serves as a startling case study of conflicting world and life views between Huron, Iriquois, and Algonkin "Savages" and the... Read more
Published on April 4 2000
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing, Enthralling
A deep, disturbing, thoughtful novel of New France, the very early years of what we now call Canada. Read more
Published on March 30 2000 by Ben Kilpela
4.0 out of 5 stars An Honest, if Sickening, Depiction of Our History
I was originally assigned the book as a project for school, and decided I would just watch the movie, but I was captivated by the story and just had to read the novel. Read more
Published on March 24 2000 by Leah
3.0 out of 5 stars Iroquois cannibalism uncovered
The reason this book is important for me it's that for the first time I met the description of Iroquois cannibalism. Read more
Published on Oct. 26 1999 by Zordan Lorenzo
4.0 out of 5 stars Details only Moore can bring out.
For those who enjoy feeling transported to another time, another life, this is a beautiful and painful look at life in Canada when the "Savages" and the Christians met... Read more
Published on Nov. 24 1997 by kltornberg@aol.com
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