Death Comes for the Archbishop Paperback – Jun 16 1990
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“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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Willa Cather's best known novel; a narrative that recounts a life lived simply in the silence of the southwestern desert.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Don't read this if you are looking for a rollicking western novel, or if you are looking for dogma or scandal. Read morePublished on April 16 2014 by Ric deMeulles
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 morePublished on March 10 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. Read morePublished on Feb. 29 2004 by William Dunn
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
erhem...to all you acedeca "decathaleats" i ask one question.
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... Read more
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 morePublished on Aug. 10 2003 by Amazon Customer
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 morePublished on July 11 2003
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