The Heretic: A Novel of the Inquisition Hardcover – May 4 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Winner of the 1999 Spanish literary prize, the Premio Nacional de Narrative, Delibes's assured historical novel takes place in the Spanish city of Valladolid, where Cipriano Salcedo is born on October 31, 1517, the same day Martin Luther nails his 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg. Deprived of his mother, who dies shortly after childbirth, and alienated from his self-absorbed father, Cipriano grows up a wealthy bourgeois tormented by an overly acute conscience. He marries Teodomira, an earthy daughter of a sheep farmer who ultimately suffers a pitiful fate. After meeting theologians Agustín, Pedro Cazalla and Don Carlos de Seso, Cipriano converts to Lutheranism and quickly becomes a leading member of the local underground Protestant Reformation, working to win other converts and even traveling to Germany for the movement. When the Inquisition arrests a sect member, the entire group—including Cipriano—is exposed and all are arrested. Delibes (The Hedge, etc.) weaves an engrossing tapestry of historical and theological minutiae, but the character of Cipriano is an allegorical, everyman figure. The real protagonist of this novel is the 16th-century incarnation of the author's hometown, Valladolid, which he recreates in lucid detail. (Apr.)
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Winner of the Premio Nacional de Narrative, Spain's most prestigious literary prize, this novel seeks to illuminate the Spanish Inquisition through the story of one man. Cipriano Salcedo, born on the same day in 1517 that Luther posts his theses, is loved only by his wet nurse (his father blames him for his mother's death after childbirth) but becomes a man of wealth and status in his native Valladolid, his adult life marred only by his failed marriage. Seeking moral perfection, he listens to clergy who accept Luther's doctrines, meets secretly with other "new Christians," and undertakes a dangerous mission to Germany to see Reformers and buy Lutheran books. The novel opens with a prelude of Salcedo's return from Germany, picking up chronologically at the last chapter, as arrests of group members begin. However, the prelude is short of background for the reader; together with the extensive use of dialogue instead of narrative and the sheer level of detail, this dilutes the drama of the story. Dense with historical fact and figures; impressive but limitedly compelling. Michele Leber
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This average novel is docked one more star due to an atrocious translation and publication process. What may have been melodious Spanish prose has been clumsily converted to nearly unreadable English, with a preponderance of awkward sentence structures, italicized terms of dubious importance, stilted dialogue, and barely-English verbiage like "aggressivity," "agilely," or "lubricity." The publisher is also guilty of a regular parade of typos and punctuation errors. This over-praised novel presents a melodramatic and boring story with unlikable characters, which is then poorly translated and produced, making the book a loser for readers in any language. [~doomsdayer520~]
I saw a review of this book in the New York Times, and it seemed quite interesting and different, since most of what has been written about the Spanish Inquisition is connected to the Jewish people. My native tongue is Spanish, so I bought a copy in that language. Frankly, I found the book slow, boring, and the language is too descriptive in an uninteresting way. I hope that Mr. Alfred MacAdam's translation into English improved the pace and general feeling of it. I give this book only one star and only for the effort that went into the research to write it.
A shallow reading of this book would find in it a condemnation of the Catholic Church. But Delibes was Catholic and when he died, his funeral was held at the cathedral in Valladolid. I think the key to understanding the book is found in two places: First, a quote from Pope John Paul II at the beginning of the book which reads, in part: "It is necessary that the Church . . . take the initiative in reviewing the darker aspects of its history, judging them in the light of the principles enunciated in the Gospels." This is what Delibes is doing, this is his contribution to the initiative requested by the Pope, and his judgment is found later in the book when Ignacio says to Cipriano: "Some day . . . these things will be considered a violation of the freedom Christ brought us."
Delibes also captures at the end some of the motivation of the inquisitors, in the efforts of some of the priests to bring the recalcitrant back to repentance and back into grace as they saw it. They tried to bring Cipriano to salvation in service to what they saw as the truth. These were not 16th century Nazis killing from racial hatred or communists, slaughtering millions in an attempt to make an omelet, but men motivated by their fanatical devotion to truth and their fervent desire to destroy anything that threatened that truth. And this is Delibes' warning to us all, whether our truth is overtly religious or garbed in the robes of science, to the extent that we seek to stifle dissent, to the extent that we shout down those who disagree with us, then, to that extent, we are the inquisition.
Yes, there are some typos, though not so many that it detracted from the story, at least not for me.