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Monday, 7 February 2011

Book notes No. 44 : The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, Philip Pullman

Today in Carmine Superiore, we are promised by thems-as-know a high of 17°, and certainly the day has started out so Mediterranean that all the windows are open and there's linen and laundry tumbling from every window-sill.

Another Philip Pullman novel. In fact his latest, and definitely for adults, with its provokingly bold red jacket with gold and black lettering (in the UK, anyway). 


Oh, it's the Independent that called it "provokingly bold". The Sunday Times called it "a hand grenade made by Fabergé", and Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury (no less) told The Guardian (who else) that it was a "deliberately outrageous fable". And I think that's a compliment.


Pullman has had a great idea. Give Jesus a twin brother. Call him Christ. And then retell the New Testament as it could possibly have been. Simple? Not that simple. Who is the good man, here? And is Christ really the scoundrel? What is the difference between history and truth, and what is the writer's role in the making of fables that last, that more than last, that inspire millions to belief in the seemingly impossible? In fact, the only thing that could be called simple about this novel is the language and the episodical structure, which so perfectly imitate that of the New English Bible. (I wonder whether the Archbishop of Canterbury considers the Bible a 'deliberately outrageous fable' - you never know these days.)

Pullman's structure, the simple language and this great idea together enable him to explore a host of dualities starting from good (perhaps Jesus) and bad (perhaps Christ), touching on mind-body, death-life, rich-poor, sin and purity, and describing, from the historical standpoint of Year Zero AD a potential Church that could be perfect - the Kingdom of God on Earth - and could just as easily be diabolically corrupt. 

It's a small-ish book, but perfectly formed. It is provoking and disturbing and in many ways extraordinary. And I have a feeling it might turn out to be important...

So read it.

8 comments:

ladyfi said...

OK - I've obeyed you and just downloaded the book to my Kindle..

Mademoiselle Poirot said...

Sounds quite heavy but also very interesting. The only problem I have is that I don't seem to be able to find the time to read anything nowadays...that's quite bad actually. Have a lovely week, Love from London xo

Louise | Italy said...

LadyFi - wow! I hope you like it. It's well worth reading.

Louise | Italy said...

Ciao Mademoiselle: I only ever get time to read in bed, and then not much because I'm always so tired at the end of the day (old age, yer know), but this one isn't at all heavy, and is written in very short chapters so you could even do it in the smallest room... :-) Have a good week too.

Sandy said...

Summer ? Its blowing a gale and the sky is dark and threatening. Much warmer tho' as the direction is from the South West. We haven't had any rain for ages and summer draught is predicted.

Louise | Italy said...

Not summer yet, not even spring yet, but with all the windows, it lifts the heart!

V. said...

Read it. Liked it.

Karin said...

Lovely picture - 17 degrees and all kinds of bedding airing out!!

Monday, 7 February 2011

Book notes No. 44 : The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, Philip Pullman

Today in Carmine Superiore, we are promised by thems-as-know a high of 17°, and certainly the day has started out so Mediterranean that all the windows are open and there's linen and laundry tumbling from every window-sill.

Another Philip Pullman novel. In fact his latest, and definitely for adults, with its provokingly bold red jacket with gold and black lettering (in the UK, anyway). 


Oh, it's the Independent that called it "provokingly bold". The Sunday Times called it "a hand grenade made by Fabergé", and Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury (no less) told The Guardian (who else) that it was a "deliberately outrageous fable". And I think that's a compliment.


Pullman has had a great idea. Give Jesus a twin brother. Call him Christ. And then retell the New Testament as it could possibly have been. Simple? Not that simple. Who is the good man, here? And is Christ really the scoundrel? What is the difference between history and truth, and what is the writer's role in the making of fables that last, that more than last, that inspire millions to belief in the seemingly impossible? In fact, the only thing that could be called simple about this novel is the language and the episodical structure, which so perfectly imitate that of the New English Bible. (I wonder whether the Archbishop of Canterbury considers the Bible a 'deliberately outrageous fable' - you never know these days.)

Pullman's structure, the simple language and this great idea together enable him to explore a host of dualities starting from good (perhaps Jesus) and bad (perhaps Christ), touching on mind-body, death-life, rich-poor, sin and purity, and describing, from the historical standpoint of Year Zero AD a potential Church that could be perfect - the Kingdom of God on Earth - and could just as easily be diabolically corrupt. 

It's a small-ish book, but perfectly formed. It is provoking and disturbing and in many ways extraordinary. And I have a feeling it might turn out to be important...

So read it.

8 comments:

ladyfi said...

OK - I've obeyed you and just downloaded the book to my Kindle..

Mademoiselle Poirot said...

Sounds quite heavy but also very interesting. The only problem I have is that I don't seem to be able to find the time to read anything nowadays...that's quite bad actually. Have a lovely week, Love from London xo

Louise | Italy said...

LadyFi - wow! I hope you like it. It's well worth reading.

Louise | Italy said...

Ciao Mademoiselle: I only ever get time to read in bed, and then not much because I'm always so tired at the end of the day (old age, yer know), but this one isn't at all heavy, and is written in very short chapters so you could even do it in the smallest room... :-) Have a good week too.

Sandy said...

Summer ? Its blowing a gale and the sky is dark and threatening. Much warmer tho' as the direction is from the South West. We haven't had any rain for ages and summer draught is predicted.

Louise | Italy said...

Not summer yet, not even spring yet, but with all the windows, it lifts the heart!

V. said...

Read it. Liked it.

Karin said...

Lovely picture - 17 degrees and all kinds of bedding airing out!!