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... for taking the time to stop by. I hope some of these ponderings will resonate with you.

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(Unless stated otherwise, all text & pictures are © Lee Labuschagne, all rights reserved.)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

1+1+1 for 365 day 34: Seville, priests and mysteries

Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends. - Virginia Woolf

The Seville Communion by Arturo Pérez Reverte

I thought this note on this book by Spanish TV-journalist turned novelist Pérez-Reverte would be a good choice for a Sunday, since its story concerns issues of Roman Catholic Church tradition and personal battles of  faith and conscience.

I enjoyed this book, for which Pérez-Reverte won the Jean Monnet Prize for European Literature. He  is a good story teller and creates some very well-drawn characters:  from priests who have lost their faith, Spanish aristocrats, ambitious businessmen, a mysterious computer hacker, a seductive Andalusian beauty, an old priest with an interest in astronomy and cynical members of the upper echelons of the church in Rome to smaller characters such as a once famous flamenco dancer and a bullfighter-turned-boxer-turned-small-time crook and a greasy tabloid reporter.  There are suspicious deaths, much inner conflict endured by many of the main characters - and tales of tragic romances.   All the ingredients therefore, for a good read: an interesting story that also makes you think written in the unpretentious style of a seasoned journalist.

I can almost hear the questions from readers of this bloog about why an atheist would even be interested in reading stories featuring priests, nuns and the like.  Indeed it might seem strange that someone who is not religious (it is something that died a slow death in my life even though I grew up in an environment where faith and religious observance was an inherent part of everyday culture) should enjoy reading a book which might at first glance only interest Catholics.

How I came to my own world views is a long story. But whatever my personal attitudes about faith and religion, I've always been interested in the church and specifically also in the influence of the Roman Catholic Church and related churches such as the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox churches in addition to the Protestant experience of my upbringing.  

I've had many close friends who are Catholic or were brought up in the Catholic faith.  I have a certain understanding of the value of the traditions, liturgy, practice and rituals of the church has had and still has for many millions of people over the ages.  But but I have been alarmed over the years about those things about the church that seem outright harmful and in essence my world view is not one that is dependent on the existence of the all-powerful god or gods of any of the major Christian groups or indeed any of the major religions of the world.    Yet over the years I have read many books that have the church and the priesthood as central theme and them interesting.

Having spent some time working in Spain as a young woman and falling in love with that country and its language and culture, I enjoyed reading something set in Seville - a city which I did not visit but which also immediately conjures up the sounds of Bizet's wonderful opera, Carmen.  Indeed there are numerous references to the opera's central character in the book as well.

I bought The Seville Communion on a sale some time ago and kept if for a weekend when I wanted some escapist reading.  I ended up enjoying it for the reasons already mentioned and also because aspects of it makes one think.  I could be critical about some of the writing (unnecessary repetitions of the same phrases and descriptions),  but those are not major enough to make me stop reading.   In fact, I think I would be happy to pick up some of this other books such as The Flanders Panel and The Club Dumas.

This church is not in Spain and is also not a Roman Catholic one, but I was somehow reminded of it when I read the book. This church is in the tiny village of Mamre in the Western Cape and the church was built by Moravian missionaries.

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