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Death Comes for the Archbishop Paperback – Jun 16 1990


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (June 16 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679728899
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679728894
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.6 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 635 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #23,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Review

“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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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By -_Tim_- on July 10 2004
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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. Father Latour takes with him his close friend, Father Jospeh Vaillant, to help with this cause. Latour is handsome, non-judgemental, amiable, keeps himself in check; Vaillant is his opposite, being not so pleasant of face but very very sociable and incredibly strong in faith.
There isn't much of a plot for this novel. It's more of a photo album or a series of episodes about the unexplored Western United States. The reader sees what the territory of New Mexico, Arizona and Mexico were like before trains, when the desert was both a beautiful and a harsh place. And, the reader learns about the people living there, from the French Fahters sent to Chrisitanize the Indians to the Mexican and Spanish settlers to the native Indians who are untrusting of white men and still hold to their gods. And the reader sees it all through the eyes of Father Latour so we get his wonder and awe at this strange, new world into which he's been sent to spread the word of God.
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Format: Paperback
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. I am sympathetic with those who say that the Bishop is a harbinger of capitalism and out-of-touch with the Indians and Mexicans, and at first I was bothered by Cather's acceptance and relative lack of bias towards all groups. Although she seemed to occasionally stereotype, for the most part she didn't seem to take sides at all. I wanted her to be more critical and judgmental!
It is a rather slowly told tale, but not difficult for any level of reader. And finally near the end she begins to achieve beauty. My favorite landscape line: "Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky". My favorite explanation of alone time: "It was not a solitude of atrophy, of negation, but of perpetual flowering." And finally she hints at environmental destruction and the difference in how different people treat the planet, discusses the plight of the Navajo, and calls Kit Carson, who until nearly the last page has been a gentleman and a scholar, "misguided". I was relieved. Go get 'em Willa.
It may be slow going at first, but it's rewards are many especially if you are interested in history. In Stuart Udall's The Founding Fathers, you will also find some discussion of Bishop Lamy.
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