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Death Comes for the Archbishop [Paperback]

Willa Cather
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 16 1990 Vintage Classics
Willa Cather's best known novel; a narrative that recounts a life lived simply in the silence of the southwestern desert.

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Product Description

From Library Journal

Nebraska pulls out all the stops for this superb scholarly edition of Cathers 1927 novel. This edition includes a newly restored text along with several historical essays and explanatory notes by several scholars. Academic libraries supporting hardcore American literature curricula will want this volume.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“A truly remarkable book . . . Soaked through and through with atmosphere . . . From the riches of her imagination and sympathy Miss Cather has distilled a very rare piece of literature. It stands out, from the very resistance it opposes to classification.”—NEW YORK TIMES“The most sensuous of writers, Willa Cather builds her imagined world as solidly as our five senses build the universe around us.”—Rebecca West“[Cather’s] descriptions of the Indian mesa towns on the rock are as beautiful, as unjudging, as lucid, as her descriptions of the Bishop’s cathedral. It is an art of ‘making,’ of clear depiction—of separate objects, whose whole effect works slowly and mysteriously in the reader, and cannot be summed up . . . Cather’s composed acceptance of mystery is a major, and rare, artistic achievement.”—from the Introduction by A. S. Byatt

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One afternoon in the autumn of 1851 a solitary horseman, followed by a pack-mule, was pushing through an arid stretch of country somewhere in central New Mexico. Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Death Comes for the Archbishop July 10 2004
By -_Tim_-
Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop is a deceptively simple but profound novel about two French missionaries in the Southwestern United States. These men are not terribly otherworldly and they are capable of enjoying good books, good wine, and good food. They are tough guys too, up to the task of traveling thousands of miles on horseback or facing down some bad guys. The religion they promote provides support and comfort to Mexicans, Indians, and some Anglo miners who need spiritual succor.
The book presents us with several vignettes in the lives of these urbane priests, as well as some fables and Southwestern folklore. By living in harmony with God's law and the world he created, the men prosper. Eventually, they must part, and they must grow old and die. But death holds no horror for men like these who have spent their lives in service to others.
Cather's writing is beautiful and direct. In the following passage, one of the priests and his friend spend several days traveling together:
As Father Latour and Eusabio approached Albuquerque, they occasionally fell in with company; Indians going to and fro on the long winding trails across the plain, or up into the Sandia mountains. They had all of them the same quiet way of moving, whether their pace was swift or slow, and the same unobtrusive demeanor: an Indian wrapped in his bright blanket, seated upon his mule or walking beside it, moving through the pale new-budding sage-brush, winding among the sand waves, as if it were his business to pass unseen and unheard through a country awakening with spring.
North of Laguna two Zuni runners sped by them, going somewhere east on "Indian business." They saluted Eusabio by gestures with the open palm, but did not stop.
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5.0 out of 5 stars an american master April 16 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Don't read this if you are looking for a rollicking western novel, or if you are looking for dogma or scandal.

Consider Cather a master painter, and look at this as a portrait of a man who's quest is no different than anyone else's--he's got to follow his life where it leads, and endure the hardships he finds along the way. In this case the hardships are tied to an untamed and savagely beautiful land. There's no small amount of western scenery and history in this book (Kit Carson even makes an appearance).

I said there was no dogma, but that doesn't mean Cather's tale does not reach into the reader and resonate in that place where the spirit resides. One can not read many pages without sensing the grand mystery of existence--and what's more spiritual than that?

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5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Portrait of Frontier Life March 1 2004
Death Comes for the Archbishop is an anomaly among Cather's works, and, for that matter, all twentieth-century works. In this book, you will not find chronology, action, or drama. You will, however, find a story that will grip you and will not let you go until Death finally does come for the Archbishop. If you are interested in precise, simple prose, a heart-warming story, and have a few hours to spare (the novel is rather short; the font is large), pick up a copy and enjoy yourself.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Death comes for the archbishop Nov. 9 2003
As close to history as Cather can make this story
Written as a novel, Death Comes for the Archbishop is historical fiction based on the lives of Bishop Jean Baptiste L'Amy and his associates within the church. As such, it is representative of Cather's strong spiritual side. Set mostly in and around Santa Fe, New Mexico, it chronicles the bishop's efforts to organize the Catholic diocese of NM. A character study in the old sense of the word, this book explores the paths and pitfalls of men determined to build a mission, a cathedral in the wilderness.
After you've read this book, should you travel to New Mexico, be sure to visit the chapel of the archbishop on the grounds of Bishop Ranch, just outside Santa Fe.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Vivid, Surprising, Beautiful Sept. 24 2003
In the early 21st century, Willa Cather is perhaps best remembered for her chronicles of prairie lives, but one of her best works is DEATH COMES TO THE ARCHBISHOP, which depicts the southwest some 300 years after the Spaniards arrived, but barely into its American infancy. In the 1850s, there are no maps yet, and to the European eye, the landscape is a vast, primitive "geometric nightmare." It is peopled by Mexicans and Native American Indians, and by a few rogue priests who so far from Rome and civilization have built fiefdoms and empires in the desert wilderness. It has been left so long untouched that Christian legends have grown up and become ancient alongside the lore of the Indians. By turns, the land and its people are hospitable and inspiring, misguided and harsh.
In 1848, the church of Rome believes it is time to find a leader who will bring order to this region. Going against conventional wisdom, the leaders decide on a younger priest, Jean Marie Latour, a Frenchman currently stationed in Michigan, for the task. The first question that persists through this episodic story is, is he the right person? The book becomes a portrait of his steady cerebral yet compassionate leadership through the chaos he finds and the upheavals of an extraordinary period in history.
The movement of the book zigzags among the people, both imagined and real (Kit Carson shows up), and the land. Especially, it looks at the land as it is shaped by belief-Christian, Indian and political. Cather does an extraordinary job of creating very vivid, complex characters. She also describes the land in a way that needs no photographs or maps to build it in our minds. Her prose is elegiac and yet nearly as clean as Hemingway's.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars a great accomplishment to read
I also read this book for the academic decathlon. It helped that I defined every word I didn't know ( A LOT OF WORDS) because it gave me a better understanding of what's going on. Read more
Published on March 10 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars The horror...the horror...
I had to read this for academic decathlon and I must say it's one of the most boring, blandly-written things I've ever read, and I adore reading.
Published on Feb. 22 2004 by E. Duncan
1.0 out of 5 stars this book sux all you acedeca "decathaleats" i ask one question.
Published on Feb. 3 2004 by acedecalacky
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written book
A new Bishop, Father Jean Marie Latour, is sent by Rome to spread Chrisitanity through new territory purchased in the Americas as part of the Gadsden Purchase. Read more
Published on Aug. 31 2003 by gac1003
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't worry. It gets better.
After reading this book, I would not name my Great Dane Willa Cather, but I did very much enjoy her portrait of the Bishop Lamy of Santa Fe. Read more
Published on Aug. 21 2003 by mandoman
4.0 out of 5 stars A good historical novel of early New Mexico...
A story about two French priests, Bishop (later the Archbishop of the title) Jean Marie Latour, and his longtime friend and colleague, Father (later Bishop) Joseph Vaillant, who... Read more
Published on Aug. 11 2003 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars NOT a novel of love and sacrifice
Yes, it evokes the landscape--but in a telling passage, Latour looks at the mountains in the landscape and sees them as scattered buildings that look "like mountains" and... Read more
Published on July 11 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars A western classic
This wonderful novel from Willa Cather is loosely based on a true story. It is the tale of Father Jean Marie Latour, a Catholic Bishop from France who is sent to be the first... Read more
Published on Feb. 13 2003 by bixodoido
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