—But, my dear Sebastian, you can’t seriously believe it all.
—I mean about Christmas and the star and the three kings and the ox and the ass.
—Oh yes, I believe that. It’s a lovely idea.
—But you can’t believe things because they’re a lovely idea.
—But I do. That’s how I believe.
—Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited
This month’s book salon topic was novels with religious characters or settings. Salonista selections were quite varied and ran the gamut from anti-religious to reverential: Cain (José Saramago), Death Comes for the Archbishop (Willa Cather), The End of the Affair (Graham Greene), In This House of Brede (Rumer Godden), The Name of the Rose (Umberto Eco).
Preparing the discussion questions took me back to the fabulous “Theology and Literature” class I took in college, where I first read Graham Greene, Gilgamesh, and Shusaku Endo’s Silence. This theme provides so many avenues for discussion (and there are so many novels on its list that I want to read) that I think we could totally do it again in the near future. Following the meeting, I am most intrigued by Cain, read in Spanish by La Maratonista Minimalista. Sadly, a quick search of Amazon, Goodreads, and the San Francisco Public Library leads me to believe it might not be available in English yet. If you know otherwise, let me know.
Unfortunately, before our meeting, I had only read about 300 pages of my selection, The Name of the Rose; however, I don’t feel too guilty, because one conclusion I came to while reading it is that it is probably a better fit for next month’s topic, Books and the Bookish. For, although the novel takes place in a fourteenth-century monastery, it is really more about language, learning, and books, than about religion. But I do need to finish it by the end of the month since it’s my challenge book for January. Even though the book salon concept means that it’s not really crucial to finish a text before meeting, I much prefer it, and therefore I need to get started on Possession soon, which, from what I recall, should be an interesting follow-up to the Eco.
Speaking of challenges, how is everyone doing on The Great Unread? Please post below, whether you’ve only just picked your January book, read a fair amount, or finished your selection. Depending on your outlook, you have only have half a month left, or you have half a month left.