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Death Comes for the Archbishop is a 1927 novel by Willa Cather. It concerns the attempts of a Catholic bishop and a priest to establish a diocese in New Mexico territory. The novel portrays two well-meaning and devout French priests who will encounter a well-entrenched Spanish-Mexican clergy after the United States acquired New Mexico in the Mexican–American War. As a res Death Comes for the Archbishop is a 1927 novel by Willa Cather. It concerns the attempts of a Catholic bishop and a priest to establish a diocese in New Mexico territory. The novel portrays two well-meaning and devout French priests who will encounter a well-entrenched Spanish-Mexican clergy after the United States acquired New Mexico in the Mexican–American War. As a result of the U.S. victory, the dioceses of the new state were remapped by the Vatican to reflect the new national borders. Several of these entrenched priests are depicted as examples of greed, avarice, and gluttony, while others live simple, abstemious lives among the Native Americans. Cather portrays the Hopi and Navajo sympathetically, and her characters express the near futility of overlaying their religion on a millennia-old native culture. The novel was included on Time's 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005, and Modern Library's list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century and was chosen by the Western Writers of America to be the 7th-best "Western Novel" of the 20th century. Cascais Classic Editions is proud to offer you the best edition of this literary classic featuring one of the greatest classics of the 20th century.


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Death Comes for the Archbishop is a 1927 novel by Willa Cather. It concerns the attempts of a Catholic bishop and a priest to establish a diocese in New Mexico territory. The novel portrays two well-meaning and devout French priests who will encounter a well-entrenched Spanish-Mexican clergy after the United States acquired New Mexico in the Mexican–American War. As a res Death Comes for the Archbishop is a 1927 novel by Willa Cather. It concerns the attempts of a Catholic bishop and a priest to establish a diocese in New Mexico territory. The novel portrays two well-meaning and devout French priests who will encounter a well-entrenched Spanish-Mexican clergy after the United States acquired New Mexico in the Mexican–American War. As a result of the U.S. victory, the dioceses of the new state were remapped by the Vatican to reflect the new national borders. Several of these entrenched priests are depicted as examples of greed, avarice, and gluttony, while others live simple, abstemious lives among the Native Americans. Cather portrays the Hopi and Navajo sympathetically, and her characters express the near futility of overlaying their religion on a millennia-old native culture. The novel was included on Time's 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005, and Modern Library's list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century and was chosen by the Western Writers of America to be the 7th-best "Western Novel" of the 20th century. Cascais Classic Editions is proud to offer you the best edition of this literary classic featuring one of the greatest classics of the 20th century.

30 review for Death Comes for the Archbishop (Annotated Edition) (Willa Cather's Great Classics Book 6)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ben Winch

    Oh... my... God. This is beautiful. I'm only halfway through it but I don't care how it ends; every chapter is so complete in itself, every word such unmitigated pleasure that I would be stunned – absolutely floored – if Cather somehow fumbled the ball in the next 150 pages. This is it. The work of a writer with nothing to prove. A writer so humble, her words so transparent, that she seems to disappear behind the curtain of the text, her elegant shadow barely visible in its folds. At age twenty, Oh... my... God. This is beautiful. I'm only halfway through it but I don't care how it ends; every chapter is so complete in itself, every word such unmitigated pleasure that I would be stunned – absolutely floored – if Cather somehow fumbled the ball in the next 150 pages. This is it. The work of a writer with nothing to prove. A writer so humble, her words so transparent, that she seems to disappear behind the curtain of the text, her elegant shadow barely visible in its folds. At age twenty, hearing Nina Simone sing 'Black is the Colour of My True True Love's Hair', I felt my heart couldn't contain that song; it must consume me. Now I feel the same about Death Comes For the Archbishop. It's bigger than me. Will I ever comprehend it? Will I ever be wise enough, my heart big enough, my life lived enough? Also in my twenties, I read I Heard the Owl Call My Name with wonder; now I find that book is like a single episode in this one. Cather's prose is so sensual, her transmitting of physical experience so direct, that I feel I have just returned from a New Mexico all gold and orange and green and baking in stark sunlight as I ride my mule towards shelter behind cool cloister walls. Some books resist analysis, the smart review, the quick response. Many years from now I will still be groping for a sober word to say about this. Out and out love is all I can give it right now. An absolute masterpiece. You ask me, she's second only to Poe in the Great American Writer stakes.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Annet

    But in the Old World he found himself homesick for the New. It was a feeling he could not explain; a feeling that old age did not weigh so heavily upon a man in New Mexico as in the Puy-de Dome. ...In New Mexico he always awoke a young man; not until he rose and began to shave did he realize that he was growing older. His first consciousness was a sense of the light dry wind blowing in through the windows, with the fragrance of hot sun and sage-brush and sweet clover; a wind that made one's body But in the Old World he found himself homesick for the New. It was a feeling he could not explain; a feeling that old age did not weigh so heavily upon a man in New Mexico as in the Puy-de Dome. ...In New Mexico he always awoke a young man; not until he rose and began to shave did he realize that he was growing older. His first consciousness was a sense of the light dry wind blowing in through the windows, with the fragrance of hot sun and sage-brush and sweet clover; a wind that made one's body feel light and one's heart cry 'Today, today', like a child's.... What a wonderful, beautiful book... I'm lost for words right now. More in the days to follow. Beautifully written book. A slow read, take it all in.... the language, the content.... Can't believe I hadn't heard from this author yet, but thanks to Goodreads I have, will certainly explore her works, as recommended to me by the good Goodreads friends here, thanks! Already an interesting detail: I read Blood Meridian of McCarthy recently which is staged in the same time and area as this book. Both books beautiful. While McCarthy's book is dark and full of blood, this book is full of thought and quiet beauty..... I just realized I read these two books shortly after each other... food for thought as well. More to follow definitely. Just need to sleep on it, the beauty and stillness of this story... Highly recommended!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather Death Comes for the Archbishop is a 1927 novel by American author Willa Cather. It concerns the attempts of a Catholic bishop and a priest to establish a diocese in New Mexico Territory. The narrative is based on two historical figures, Jean-Baptiste Lamy and Joseph Projectus Machebeuf and rather than any one singular plot, is the stylized re-telling of their lives serving as Roman Catholic clergy in New Mexico. The narrative has frequent digressions, Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather Death Comes for the Archbishop is a 1927 novel by American author Willa Cather. It concerns the attempts of a Catholic bishop and a priest to establish a diocese in New Mexico Territory. The narrative is based on two historical figures, Jean-Baptiste Lamy and Joseph Projectus Machebeuf and rather than any one singular plot, is the stylized re-telling of their lives serving as Roman Catholic clergy in New Mexico. The narrative has frequent digressions, either in terms of stories related to the pair (including the story of the Our Lady of Guadeloupe and the murder of an oppressive Spanish priest at Acoma Pueblo) or through their recollections. The narrator is in third-person omniscient style. Cather includes many fictionalized accounts of actual historical figures, including Kit Carson, Manuel Antonio Chaves and Pope Gregory XVI. In the prologue, Bishop Montferrand, a French bishop who works in the New World, solicits three cardinals at Rome to pick his candidate for the newly created diocese of New Mexico (which has recently passed into American hands). Bishop Montferrand is successful in getting his candidate, the Auvergnat Jean-Marie Latour, recommended by the cardinals over the recommendation of the Bishop of Durango (whose territory New Mexico had previously fallen under). One of the cardinals, a Spaniard named Allende, alludes to a painting by El Greco taken from his family by a missionary to the New World and lost, and asks for the new Bishop to search for it. ... تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز هفتم ماه فوریه سال 2017میلادی عنوان: مرگ سراغ اسقف اعظم میآید؛ نویسنده: ویلا کادر (کتر)؛ مترجم: سلما رضوانجو؛ تهران، نشر شورآفرین، 1393، در 275ص، شابک 9786006955599؛ سده 20م نویسنده‌ امریکایی برنده‌ ی جایزه ی «پولیتزر»، «ویلا کاتر (1873میلادی تا 1947میلادی)»، ستایشگر غم و نومیدی است، ایشان بیش‌تر نامداری خویشتن را، از راه آفرینش رمان‌هایی به دست آورده اند، که: به زندگی نخستین مهاجران اروپایی، ساکن در «ایالات غربی امریکا» میپرداخت، و از شیوه های زندگی، در دشتهای بزرگ، حکایتها داشت؛ «مرگ سراغ اسقف اعظم میآید» آنطور که «هارولد بلوم»، منتقد «امریکایی» میگویند: جاه‌ طلبانه ترین اثر «کاتر» است؛ «بلوم»، «کاتر» را، همتای نویسندگان هم‌عصر خویش، همانند «ارنست همینگوی»، و «اسکات فیتس جرالد» میدانند؛ «مرگ سراغ اسقف اعظم میآید» در نظرسنجی مجله ی «تایم»، در سال 2005میلادی، مقام بیستمین رمان بزرگ سده ی بیستم میلادی را، برنده شد، و در نظرسنجی دیگری، که موسسه انتشاراتی «رندوم هاوس» در سال 1999میلادی انجام داد، این رمان به عنوان شصت و یکمین رمان بزرگ سده ی بیستم میلادی، نامدار گردید؛ «مرگ سراغ اسقف اعظم می آید» درباره ی نخستین اسقف «نیومکزیکو»، «ژان ماریه لاتور»، و دستیارش «ژوزف ویان»، در دهه ی 1850میلادی است؛ که با دو قاطرشان، «آنجلیکا» و «کانتنو»، سراسر سرزمینهای غربی «امریکا - نیومکزیکو» را، برای تبلیغ، و گسترش آیین مسیحیت، زیر پای میگذارند؛ «کاتر»، این رمان را، براساس زندگی واقعی دو مبلغ مذهبی کاتولیک اسقف «لامی»، و دستیارش بنگاشته است؛ رمان دارای نه بخش، و به صورت اپیزودیک است، و هر یک، دوره ای از زندگی پدر «لاتور» را، نشان میدهد؛ داستان پر است از آفرینش تصاویر، تا به خوبی، دوره ی تاریخی، و شخصیت این دو مرد، و نوع زندگی‌شان را، نشان دهد؛ توصیفات «کاتر» از شهرها، و کوهستان‌های سرخپوستی، درست همانند بیان ایشان، از «کلیسای جامع اسقف»، بیطرفانه و شفاف است؛ نوعی هنر تصویرسازی شفاف، از اشیای جداگانه، که به شکلی اسرارآمیز، در خوانشگر اثر می‌کند؛ استفاده موقرانه ی «کاتر»، از رمز و راز، دستاوردی نایاب و هنرمندانه است تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 17/09/1398هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  4. 5 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    Two young French priests newly out of the seminary in France, where they first met, ( destined to become bishops of the Catholic Church, in the New World , one an Archbishop ) became close friends until death struck. Jean Marie Latour ( Jean -Baptiste Lamy the original Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico ) and Joseph Vaillant ( Joseph Projectus Machebeuf, Denver, Colorado's, first bishop) recruited by the Irish born bishop from Cincinnati, Ohio, for missionary work in America where only a relativ Two young French priests newly out of the seminary in France, where they first met, ( destined to become bishops of the Catholic Church, in the New World , one an Archbishop ) became close friends until death struck. Jean Marie Latour ( Jean -Baptiste Lamy the original Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico ) and Joseph Vaillant ( Joseph Projectus Machebeuf, Denver, Colorado's, first bishop) recruited by the Irish born bishop from Cincinnati, Ohio, for missionary work in America where only a relatively few Catholics lived , while still in their native land. They sneak away from the families too painful to say goodbye, it will cease to be home soon. The men are quite different Jean well- educate, tall healthy good- looking , feels comfortable with his "superiors" both civilian and clergy. While Joseph a small human rather ugly by prevailing standards, sickly too, the opposite of his friend... not as intelligent, but a drive to save souls that is second to none, the poor people flock to the unpretentious priest. These simple facts strangely are mostly true...names have been changed not to protect anyone but to make this story if not 100 % accurate, close enough, more entertaining. Willa Cather brings her considerable talent, to this book and gives poignancy to what could have been a rather dry , dull story of these dedicated, brave, tireless clergymen working for God. Later both are sent to the primitive New Mexican frontier town of Santa Fe the capital, Jean as its bishop and Joseph the Vicar, where the hostile inhabitants despise the new rulers, yet the mainly French priests there are well respected... Constant lonely journeys through blazing deserts, snowy mountains, treacherous grounds, fierce storms of sand or rain or fiercer Indian tribes in the 1850's, the U.S.'s unknown southwestern territory, little populated and recently conquered from Mexico. This is the isolated almost empty of vegetation , gigantic diocese... the entire terrain they try to administer ...compromising someday the states of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah , many years before they join the Union. The Vatican has given them very wide authority...thousands of miles of roads to travel...the clergymen spend few days in the shabby homes they occupy in Santa Fe. On top of mules is their real homes, going from one poverty stricken Pueblo or scattered settlement to another, performing happy marriages and baptisms or sad funerals , building churches and saying Mass in distant places, numerous times for fifty years...almost perishing repeatedly, in this unforgiving country of Indians with their own religion, devout Mexicans and Protestant Americans, somehow they will try to live in Peace. The Archbishop has a fantastic dream...to build a beautiful yet unassuming cathedral in the small, destitute town of Santa Fe. An appealing saga of men who can never surrender ...in the endless struggle to reach the goal of salvation, not for themselves but for the people. I needn't have to say again, an inspiring book for believers and a touching narrative for everyone else...I will...superb.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    “Father Vaillant began pacing restlessly up and down as he spoke, and the Bishop watched him, musing. It was just this in his friend that was dear to him. ‘Where there is great love there are always miracles,’ he said at length. ‘One might almost say that an apparition is human vision corrected by divine love. I do not see you as you really are, Joseph; I see you through my affection for you. The Miracles of the Church seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming s “Father Vaillant began pacing restlessly up and down as he spoke, and the Bishop watched him, musing. It was just this in his friend that was dear to him. ‘Where there is great love there are always miracles,’ he said at length. ‘One might almost say that an apparition is human vision corrected by divine love. I do not see you as you really are, Joseph; I see you through my affection for you. The Miracles of the Church seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always…’” - Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop There are times – rare enough, I admit – when I ask my books to do more by doing less. There are times when I do not want to read about tumult or strife, violence or disruption, or even anything resembling dramatic conflict. Sometimes, I simply want quiet, peace, and meditation. Sometimes, I just want stillness, existence, and being. Death Comes for the Archbishop is one of those quiet books. Despite its title – which makes it sound like the Grim Reaper is stalking the lead character – it is nothing more than an unassuming account of a humble man’s span on earth. There is nothing to quicken the pulse. No tension. No cliffhangers. It is – for lack of a better word – oddly soothing. For whatever reason, Willa Cather does not have the name recognition and ubiquity of other great American authors, a list of which she is surely a part. I have no evidence to back this up, but I suppose some of this has to do with the fact that her most famous novels take place in Nebraska. Though the howling plains have their charms, they do not have the cachet of coastal or European settings. In Death Comes for the Archbishop, Cather leaves the Cornhusker State for mid-19th century New Mexico. Though the scenery changes, her ability to describe it does not. Among the charms of this slim book is its evocation of the land, and its ability to find the beauty even in the harshest of terrains. The main characters here are two French priests: Bishop Jean Marie Latour and his vicar, Father Joseph Vaillant. Having grown up together in France, Latour and Vaillant had been stationed in Sandusky, Ohio before being sent to the American southwest. Essentially plotless, Cather’s book consists of a prologue (set in Rome) and nine chapters. The chapters are mainly episodic, often containing their own miniature story arcs. One chapter focuses solely on a priest of whom Bishop Latour disapproves. Another spins the yarn of Dona Isabella, who must be convinced to reveal her true age – she claims to be in her early forties, and has been for years – in order to win a high-stakes will contest. While disconnected, these small sections – the entire novel is a hair less than three hundred pages – stand on their own. For instance, there is an early set piece in which Latour and Vaillant are riding their missionary circuit. Looking for shelter for the night, they come upon a solitary American homestead, that immediately gives them the creeps. Cather’s literary abilities are on full display as she describes the man who meets them: As they rode up to the door, a man came out, bareheaded, and they saw to their surprise that he was not a Mexican, but an American…He spoke to them in some drawling dialect they could scarcely understand and asked if they wanted to stay the night. During the few words they exchanged with him, Father Latour felt a growing reluctance to remain even for a few hours under the roof of this ugly, evil-looking fellow. He was tall, gaunt and ill-formed, with a snake-like neck, terminating in a small, bony head. Under his close-clipped hair this repellant head showed a number of thick ridges, as if the skull joinings were overgrown by layers of superfluous bone. With its small, rudimentary ears, this head had a positively malignant look. The man seemed not more than half human, but he was the only householder on the lonely road to Mora… As in her best-known works, O Pioneers! and My Antonia, Cather traverses a pretty lengthy timeline with spareness and efficiency. The years fly past, captured in small moments. Real life events and characters, such as a complexly drawn Kit Carson, are interwoven into the proceedings. One of the surprising things about Death Comes for the Archbishop is that it is tenaciously unconcerned with a narrative through-line. One of Bishop Latour’s major projects is to build a cathedral in Santa Fe. While this endeavor is periodically referenced throughout the novel (and is the reason that Dona Isabel’s probate case is so important to him), Cather never makes it the focus of her tale. As Ken Follett fans know, the construction of a cathedral would have been a perfectly serviceable framework. But Cather avoids this obvious route, and the building of Bishop Latour’s lifelong dream remains in the background, mostly taking place off the page. Both Bishop Latour and Father Vaillant are decent men, committed to their callings. Unlike other priests that we encounter, they are not greedy, they are not arrogant, and they take their vows seriously. They believe in what they are doing, which is serving God by serving people. Their focus is on the poor and the dispossessed, including the Navajo Indians, whose tragic “Long Walk” is referenced by Cather. If this book was written today, I imagine it would be executed quite differently. After all, the reputation of the scandal-ridden Roman Catholic Church could not get much lower. Bishop Latour and Father Vaillant would – at best – be made into complicated anti-heroes. They would struggle with their faith, with temptations, with giving into their basest impulses. At worst, of course, they would be made into outright villains: hypocrites who chose mammon over God; predators or charlatans; cultural imperialists. Thus, there is certainly an old-fashioned feel to Death Comes for the Archbishop, which is not surprising as it was first published in 1927. Despite the charming simplicity of the storytelling, the New Mexico that Cather describes is, in fact, quite tangled. It is situated at the borderlands of many different cultures, including those of various American Indian tribes, the former empires of Spain and Mexico, and the emerging continental empire of America. Notwithstanding the complications created by so many points of friction, Bishop Latour and Father Vaillant are resoundingly transparent in their motivations and actions. They are good, nothing more or less, and though fiction often treats goodness as a boring trait, it is all the more refreshing for that reason. Death Comes for the Archbishop was a nice change of pace, short and beautiful and profound; it does not achieve its impact by way of its vaulting ambition, but for its celebration of a modest, virtuous life.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Reading Road Trip 2020 Current location: New Mexico Ah, he thought—the Image, the physical form of Love! As I arrived at the last chapter of this book (also titled “Death Comes for the Archbishop”), I was struck with a melancholia worthy of a Brontë sister. No spoiler alerts here. The title, after all, is Death Comes for the Archbishop. It was coming for him all along, just like it's coming for you and it's coming for me. I had to take a mental break before I tackled the ending of this stunning litt Reading Road Trip 2020 Current location: New Mexico Ah, he thought—the Image, the physical form of Love! As I arrived at the last chapter of this book (also titled “Death Comes for the Archbishop”), I was struck with a melancholia worthy of a Brontë sister. No spoiler alerts here. The title, after all, is Death Comes for the Archbishop. It was coming for him all along, just like it's coming for you and it's coming for me. I had to take a mental break before I tackled the ending of this stunning little novel, so I decided to wash some dishes while distracting myself with music. What came on was Coldplay singing Elton John's “We All Fall In Love Sometimes.” Damn it. It was the opposite of a distraction. Do you know this song? (Wise men say. . . It looks like rain today). Next thing I knew, I wasn't washing dishes anymore (cue the collective sigh from the family in the background), and, instead, I cried at the kitchen counter. Yes, we all fall in love sometimes, but it is so very rare, and even far less so for Father Jean Latour (a.k.a the “Archbishop”). And then I knew it. . . I had fallen in love with a fictional priest: Well, that's far more useful than washing dishes, isn't it? But, the thing is, Father Latour isn't in love with me; he's in love with God and perhaps Father Vaillant, but he can't have anything but sand and rocks. (T.S. Eliot is demanding to interject here: Lips that would kiss. . . Form prayers to broken stone). Father Latour suffers, as we all suffer, as he quite literally crosses the deserts (over and over again) that most of us only cross figuratively, in our lives. We see him in his weakest moments, pining for something more, and we see him in his strongest moments, his faith completely restored by the Holy Spirit. I adored this brilliantly written novel. It is, in my opinion, one of the greatest love letters that was ever written to the American West, and one of the greatest fictional tributes to a life spent in devotion to God. If hereafter we have stars in our crowns, yours will be a constellation.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ines

    This book is a real monument, we are not talking only of Faith, but of friendship, of love for people, for a land, that is the New Mexico. I read this book deliberately slowly, because in parallel I have turned to research the history of Old Mexico and the new Mexico... every historical event reported or references to precise geographical areas, was for me a real and historical discovery that Willa Cather makes us to know. The story of these two priests, Father Latour and Father Valillant, who li This book is a real monument, we are not talking only of Faith, but of friendship, of love for people, for a land, that is the New Mexico. I read this book deliberately slowly, because in parallel I have turned to research the history of Old Mexico and the new Mexico... every historical event reported or references to precise geographical areas, was for me a real and historical discovery that Willa Cather makes us to know. The story of these two priests, Father Latour and Father Valillant, who little more than seventeen years old will enter the seminary together in France; and then find themselves living the Mission together, one Bishop and the other his vicar, with an immense love for what God will ask to them, not locked in the diocese to pray from morning up to the night.... but visiting people, new reserves,old missions and parishes unattainable and distant areas... from Durango up to Taos, living for and with the men they met... who could be Spanish, Indian or American. The faith that is made alive in the industrious destiny of men, not something embellished and set aside for the functions, but a daily work for the people to meet. The friendship between the two priests, which Cather was able to give us, is wonderful, melancholic and at the same time respectful of the will and emotional feeling of each other... The facts, the pains and the 70-year-long history that you will find in the book will not lash out of a single grain the underlying and supporting motif of their working together.... to the point of embracing nothing else the concept of Mission which is a " I am Lord what you make of me". Cather has a huge gift, knowing how to tell with such clarity, that your eyes will see and enjoy the landscapes and descriptions of every place and shift narrated.... Do not be fooled by those who claim that this is "A Catholic Book only" yes, it is, but it is so much more... the history of the people who lived in those harsh lands of New Mexico, the history of the settlers who arrived in the mid-19th century escaping from Colorado and Wyoming, especially the history of the Indian people (Navajo, Apache, Algochine and Tesuque) of their movements and the tragedy they had to suffer, of the very first Missionaries of the 17th century, catapulted to a dry and uninhabitable lands... I do not have much to add because I am full in the heart of this reading and I struggle, when I happen to find books so meaningful, to put in writing what I emotionally experienced during reading. Do not miss this rare pearl, this rare friendship and relationship, that nothing else you will ask to taste in life. Santa Fe territories Questo libro è un vero monumento, non stiamo parlando unicamente di Fede, ma di amicizia, di amore per i popoli, per una terra, quella del New Mexico. Ho letto volutamente adagio questo libro, perchè in parallelo ho volto andare a ricercare la storia del Mexico e del nuovo Mexico... ogni avvenimento storico riportato o riferimenti a precise zone geografiche è stata per me una scoperta vera e storica che la Cather ci fa conoscere. La storia di questi due pretini, Padre Latour e Padre Valillant, che poco piu' che diciassettenni entreranno insieme in Seminario in Francia per poi ritrovarsi a vivere la Missione insieme, l'uno Vescovo e l'altro il suo vicario, con un amore immenso per ciò che Dio chiederà loro, non rinchiusi nella diocesi a pregare da mattina sera..... ma visitando i popoli, nuove riserve,vecchie missioni e parrocchie irraggiungibili e zone lontane... da Durango sino su a Taos, vivendo per e con gli uomini che incontravano... che potevano essere spagnoli, indiani o americani.. La fede che si fa viva nella sorte operosa degli uomini, non qualcosa imbellettata e messa da parte per le funzioni, ma un quotidiano operare per il prossimo.. L'amicizia fra i due preti, che la Cather è riuscita a donarci, è meravigliosa, malinconica e nello stesso tempo rispettosa del volere e del sentire emotivo l'uno dell'altro.... I fatti, i dolori e la storia lunga 70 anni che troverete nel libro non sferzeranno ne piegheranno di un solo granello il motivo fondante e portante del loro operare insieme.... sino ad arrivare ad abbracciare niente altro il concetto di Missione che è un " io sono Signore ciò che tu fai di me". La Cather ha un dono enorme, saper raccontare con una limpidezza tale, che i tuoi occhi vedranno e godranno dei paesaggi e delle descrizioni di ogni luogo e spostamento narrato..... Non fatevi ingannare da chi sostiene che questo sia "Un libro cattolico" si, lo è, ma è tantissimo altro.... la storia dei popoli che hanno vissuto in quelle aspre terre del Nuovo Mexico,la storia dei coloni che arrivarono nella metà dell' 800 scappando dal Colorado e Wyoming, soprattutto la storia del popolo indiano (Navajo, Apache, Algochine e Tesuque) dei loro spostamenti e della tragedia che dovettero subire, dei primissimi Missionari del 600 catapultati in un luogo arido e inabitabile... Non ho molto da aggiungere perchè sono piena nel cuore di questa lettura e faccio fatica, quando mi capita di trovare libri così significativi, a mettere per iscritto ciò che emotivamente ho vissuto durante la lettura. Non fatevi scappare questa perla rara, questo rapportarsi nell' amicizia, che niente altro chiederete di assaporare nella vita.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Fabian

    Highlight here is the incredible depiction of two missionaries who undertake the megaharsh task of converting the Navajos of New Mexico to Catholicism. It describes what happens when a new policy, or way of life, is instilled into people who are far away from the Old World. There are little vignettes of savagery, of holy manifestation (including a very succinct telling of San Diego and his visitation from the Virgin Mary), of hypocrites (of course!!!), etc. It is a vivid book, full of life & ima Highlight here is the incredible depiction of two missionaries who undertake the megaharsh task of converting the Navajos of New Mexico to Catholicism. It describes what happens when a new policy, or way of life, is instilled into people who are far away from the Old World. There are little vignettes of savagery, of holy manifestation (including a very succinct telling of San Diego and his visitation from the Virgin Mary), of hypocrites (of course!!!), etc. It is a vivid book, full of life & imagination. Though it's not classified as anything but a classic, it is part Western, part fauxbiography. Yeah, the Archbishop of the title could have lived, & probably did. Willa Cather never visited the world she so valiantly and expertly writes about in such poetic demeanor. That she gives her work an authentic sense of wonder is evidence of an active mind & an inspired pen.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jaline

    Coming to the end of this book was like a sad farewell to some very good friends. Father Joseph, Father Letour, their many friends and acquaintances who built solid and strong relationships with them over the years, and their country. Oh my. Their beautiful country. Father Joseph and Father Letour, both originally from France, were sent to the land of New Mexico shortly after it had been annexed. They were young men whose mission was to bring spiritual counsel and comfort to the people of this Ne Coming to the end of this book was like a sad farewell to some very good friends. Father Joseph, Father Letour, their many friends and acquaintances who built solid and strong relationships with them over the years, and their country. Oh my. Their beautiful country. Father Joseph and Father Letour, both originally from France, were sent to the land of New Mexico shortly after it had been annexed. They were young men whose mission was to bring spiritual counsel and comfort to the people of this New World, and to build and expand their congregations where possible. Their lives were dedicated to this purpose and this book describes the many adventures and successes and setbacks that they encountered over the years. Although the characters are fictional in this book, the life of Father Letour who became a Bishop and then Archbishop closely parallels the timeline highlights of Father Jean Baptiste Lamy, the real-life priest who became the first Bishop of New Mexico and later, the Archbishop. This story is captured in some of the most picturesque and beautiful prose I have read. The descriptions of the people and of their lives and lifestyles are in-depth and as vivid as being there. Where Willa Cather’s poetic prose shines even brighter is her descriptions of the land and the flora and fauna of this amazing part of the world. Her words painted landscapes in my mind that were so alive I could smell the air and breathe the sky. This is not a book to rush through – it is atmospheric and slow, like riding out among the mesas on mules and conserving energy for the journey ahead. I love a book with a pace that makes me adjust to its timing, that makes me sit back and pay attention, to take notice, to take the time to appreciate its story and visual wonders. This book has all of those qualities and I am impressed beyond measure. These qualities may not be right for everyone, but for me, at this particular time, it was perfect.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Hugh

    My only previous experience of reading Cather was last year, when I enjoyed My Ántonia. This book is very different, but shares the same frontier spirit and once again allows Cather the space to indulge her descriptive talents. This one is largely a factual story, although she changed the names of her leading characters. The Archbishop of the title Jean Latour can only be Jean-Baptiste Lamy, the first Bishop of New Mexico, and his vicar (and later Bishop in Colorado) Joseph Vaillant can only be My only previous experience of reading Cather was last year, when I enjoyed My Ántonia. This book is very different, but shares the same frontier spirit and once again allows Cather the space to indulge her descriptive talents. This one is largely a factual story, although she changed the names of her leading characters. The Archbishop of the title Jean Latour can only be Jean-Baptiste Lamy, the first Bishop of New Mexico, and his vicar (and later Bishop in Colorado) Joseph Vaillant can only be Joseph Macheboeuf. The introduction by A.S. Byatt makes her debt to writings both by and about these men clear, but the book is still an extraordinary evocation of a lost world. My only criticism is that the characterisation is a little too black and white - a more modern writer would probably have been more critical of the Church and less willing to accept descriptions of miracles at face value. Cather's sympathy for the plight of the local native Americans does demonstrate a modern progressive attitude, and many of the stories she relates are extraordinary and vividly described without showiness or melodrama.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    I'm glad I didn't know Kit Carson would be a character in Death Comes for the Archbishop; if I had, I might never have opened the book. Indeed, a weight of glumness descended on me as I realized the entire narrative would take place in New Mexico Territory, between the years 1851-1888. I foresaw dust, and tumbleweed clumps, unrestrainedly tumbling through bleak moonlike terrain. These things hold little allure for me; they're why I don't watch westerns. And it's true, the novel is filled with de I'm glad I didn't know Kit Carson would be a character in Death Comes for the Archbishop; if I had, I might never have opened the book. Indeed, a weight of glumness descended on me as I realized the entire narrative would take place in New Mexico Territory, between the years 1851-1888. I foresaw dust, and tumbleweed clumps, unrestrainedly tumbling through bleak moonlike terrain. These things hold little allure for me; they're why I don't watch westerns. And it's true, the novel is filled with descriptions of mesas, canyons and arroyos, junipers and whitewashed pueblos, sedges and piñon trees, mules named Contento. The main subject is the missionary and diocesan work of the Catholic Church among Mexicans and Indian tribes. But the writing won me over, slowly, with sentences like Wherever the footing was treacherous, it was helped out by little hand-holds, ground into the stone like smooth mittens. Smooth mittens. And a Spaniard speaking English in a "thick felty voice." There's a purity and simplicity to Cather's writing, yet it's not exactly lean and spare. It's full of adjectives and similes but it's never overdone. Cather will pause amid a fairly prosaic recounting of what some people are doing somewhere to spend 200 words on a grove of cottonwood trees, and every word belongs there. Every once in awhile the elegance will shock you: Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky. Travelling with Eusabio [a Navajo:] was like travelling with the landscape made human. The novel advances slowly and steadily, which is how it should be read. (I think it would be an enjoyable audiobook; not all books are.) It's a novel of accretions, fittingly like the geological formations in the landscape Cather repeatedly describes. The accretions are vignettes in the missionary life of Bishop Jean Marie Latour. Nothing astonishing or jolting happens, really, from a narrative standpoint. It's not until the end of the novel that we realize the depth of friendship between the handsome introvert Bishop Latour and the homely extrovert Father Vaillant (no, it's not what you think). Ultimately this is such a pure novel - pure of heart, pure of intent, pure of sentence - that it's impossible to imagine it being written today - or if it were, being taken seriously by reviewers.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Late 1800's and The Catholic Church sends two priests to reawaken the lessening faith in New Mexico and eventually other territories. Every chapter tackles a new story, a different priest, and the lives they are living in the different missions. Some had quite an opulent lifestyle, some had children and some had amassed a great deal of money. The descriptions of the landscape are masterfully done, and the distance between them that the Bishop had to travel was awe inspiring, especially on mule. Late 1800's and The Catholic Church sends two priests to reawaken the lessening faith in New Mexico and eventually other territories. Every chapter tackles a new story, a different priest, and the lives they are living in the different missions. Some had quite an opulent lifestyle, some had children and some had amassed a great deal of money. The descriptions of the landscape are masterfully done, and the distance between them that the Bishop had to travel was awe inspiring, especially on mule. A few brief appearances by Kit Carson, who was portrayed as respected by many was a welcome treat. Love Cather's writing, she always has such a firm grasp of time and place and this short book did not disappoint.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    [2.9] A plotless, meandering novel with stunning descriptions of the New Mexican landscape in the mid 1800s. Cather punctuates her lavish verbal paintings with anecdotes about two well intentioned French priests who attempt to root out the corruption practiced by fellow clergy and civilize the "natives." Considered by many to be Cather's masterpiece, it is my least favorite novel of hers and I was mostly bored. [2.9] A plotless, meandering novel with stunning descriptions of the New Mexican landscape in the mid 1800s. Cather punctuates her lavish verbal paintings with anecdotes about two well intentioned French priests who attempt to root out the corruption practiced by fellow clergy and civilize the "natives." Considered by many to be Cather's masterpiece, it is my least favorite novel of hers and I was mostly bored.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    As an adolescent, I took this book off the library shelf (I was looking through the C’s after already having made my way through the A’s and B’s), read the inner flap, thought it sounded boring and didn’t read any Cather until about five years ago. It’s a good thing I reshelved the book then, as my younger self absolutely would’ve found this boring and maybe I would never have read any Cather after that. That would’ve been a pity. For some reason, though, I still remember the look and feel of th As an adolescent, I took this book off the library shelf (I was looking through the C’s after already having made my way through the A’s and B’s), read the inner flap, thought it sounded boring and didn’t read any Cather until about five years ago. It’s a good thing I reshelved the book then, as my younger self absolutely would’ve found this boring and maybe I would never have read any Cather after that. That would’ve been a pity. For some reason, though, I still remember the look and feel of the book and the long shelf that seems dimly lit in my memory though it was next to the windowed door that led outside to the sunshine. Though my memory isn’t an elegiac one, elegiac memory is what Cather seems to do best. Her beautiful prose—the amazing descriptions of the land; the churches set amidst the landscape; the sky; the way it used to be—captured me from the beginning as the priest rides his thirsty horse through an arid country of frightening sameness, knowing a miracle will occur to help his lost self. I didn’t realize this would be a novel of vignettes. There is much more action in the jam-packed stories the characters know and tell each other than there is in the so-called plot. The style brought to mind "My Antonia", but I liked the handling of the narration here more. Cather got into the mind of a Catholic priest of the time period perfectly, or so it seemed to me. I felt the same about how perfectly she got into the head of the title character of The Professor's House, and I thought of that professor as the (Arch)bishop laid dying—and thinking. I don't know why Cather named the novel after its last section. I haven't come up with anything satisfactory, unless she’s emphasizing Death coming for all, even for the greatest among us, the ones that deserve her elegy.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Although I have read this book before, that was long enough ago that this was essentially like reading the book for the first time. I believe this is the fifth of Cather's books that I have read (this both the first and the most recent) and confirms my appreciation for her skills in presenting the landscapes of the American West, the developing American way of life as it pushes west, and the varying and various peoples who lived on and from the land. Cather had mentioned the canyons of the Southw Although I have read this book before, that was long enough ago that this was essentially like reading the book for the first time. I believe this is the fifth of Cather's books that I have read (this both the first and the most recent) and confirms my appreciation for her skills in presenting the landscapes of the American West, the developing American way of life as it pushes west, and the varying and various peoples who lived on and from the land. Cather had mentioned the canyons of the Southwest in The Song of the Lark while otherwise describing the development of the plains. Here, everything is devoted to the vast desert territory of the Southwest, land that has been newly added to the nation. The titular character is sent to Santa Fe to establish an American bishopric and we live the following decades with him. It had been nearly a year after he had embarked upon the Mississippi that the young Bishop, at about the sunset hour of an afternoon, at last beheld the old settlement toward which he had been journeying so long: ...Across the level, Father Latour could distinguish low brown shapes, like earthworks, lying at the base of wrinkled green mountains with bare tops,--wave like mountains, resembling billows beaten up from a flat sea by a heavy gale; and their green was of two colors --aspen and evergreen, not intermingled but lying in solid areas of light and dark. (p 21) This was to be Latour's home for the rest of his life. He came to know the countryside, the Mexicans, the various Pueblos and their customs. Cather describes the beliefs and ways of all quite carefully. There are aspects that are dated but there are parts that are amazingly current. In describing Latour's trip through the desert with a Mexican friend and their Indian guide, Cather writes: When they left the rock or tree or sand dune that had sheltered them for the night, the Navajo was careful to obliterate every trace of their temporary occupation....Father Latour judged that, as it was the white man's way to assert himself in any landscape, to change it, to make it over a little (or at least leave some mark of memorial of his sojourn), it was the Indian's way to pass through a country without disturbing anything; to pass and leave no trace, like fish through the water, or birds through the air. It was the Indian manner to vanish into the land- scape, not to stand out against it....It was as if the great country were asleep and they wished to carry on lives without awakening it... (pp 233-234) There is much history in this novel, history of the settlement of the Southwest since the arrival of the Spanish, history of the Catholic Church in America by way of this Bishop's life in Santa Fe, reflections on the often sad past in Indian Country and the new changes with continued western expansion. In one last selection from the novel I will give a sample of the descriptive prose Cather does so well. In other novels she describes the Plains. Here it is Acoma Pueblo: Ever afterward the Bishop remembered his first ride to Acoma as his introduction to the mesa country. One thing which struck him at once was that every mesa was duplicated by a cloud mesa, like a reflection, which lay motionless above it or moved slowly up from behind it. These cloud formations seemed to be always there, however hot and blue the sky. Sometimes they were flat terraces, ledges of vapour; sometimes they were dome-shaped, or fantastic, like the tops of silvery pagodas, rising one above another, as if an oriental city lay directly behind the rock. (p 95) I strongly recommend this novel to those wishing to delve into American classics.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    What can I say about this book? It was beautiful, it was peaceful, it was perfect. A book I will re-read periodically, when I need to leave the world behind. There is no real plot other than the lives of two French priests who come to Santa Fe in 1850 to create a Catholic mission to serve the Indians and Mexicans. Father LaTour and Father Vaillant will be riding their mules in my head forever, spreading kindness. Beautiful, peaceful, perfect.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Willa Cather captures the atmosphere and beauty of the American Southwest. It is for this reason alone one should read this book. It is a book of historical fiction about Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy (1814-1888), the first Archbishop of Santa Fe, and his vicar, Joseph Projectus Machebeuf (1815-1889), who would become the first Bishop of Denver. The missionaries were both from France and both Roman Catholic. Different in personality, yet they worked well together and came to have a deep affectio Willa Cather captures the atmosphere and beauty of the American Southwest. It is for this reason alone one should read this book. It is a book of historical fiction about Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy (1814-1888), the first Archbishop of Santa Fe, and his vicar, Joseph Projectus Machebeuf (1815-1889), who would become the first Bishop of Denver. The missionaries were both from France and both Roman Catholic. Different in personality, yet they worked well together and came to have a deep affection for each other. In this novel they go by the names Bishop Jean Marie Latour and Vicar Joseph Vaillant, respectively. The story is peppered with historical figures—Kit Carson and his wife, Manuel Antonio Chaves, Mexican priest Antonio José Martinez, Pope Gregory XVI and others. The problem is that Cather changes some names and not others, adds fictional characters and in some instances alters history. I had difficulty knowing what was true and what was not! I am still glad to have learned something about the missionaries, their opening up of the Southwest and the history behind the erection of the Saint Francis Cathedral of Santa Fe. The book speaks with accuracy of the traditions, customs, beliefs and historical events of Pueblo, Navajo and Hopi people. Their similarities and differences, their respective housing, diet and celebrations. Chalk this up as another reason to read the book. It is interesting to note that Willa Cather was raised as a Baptist, became Episcopalian and was never Roman Catholic. She observes; she does not proselytize. I must repeat, the primary reason why the book must be read is for its prose and superb drawing of the American Southwest. The book gives a stunning depiction of a time and place. I will close with three quotes: “Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky.” “It was the Indian manner to vanish into the landscape, not to stand out against it. The Hopi villages that were set upon rock mesas were made to look like the rock on which they sat, were imperceptible at a distance.” “He domesticated and developed the native wild flowers. He had one hill-side solidly clad with that low-growing purple verbena which mats over the hills of New Mexico. It was like a great violet velvet mantle thrown down in the sun; all the shades that the dyers and weavers of Italy and France strove for through centuries, the violet that is full of rose color and is yet not lavender; the blue that becomes almost pink and then retreats again into sea-dark purple—the true Episcopal color and countless variations of it.” The audiobook is narrated by David Acroyd. His French pronunciation is rather feeble, but otherwise its is fine. The performance is good, so three stars for the narration. ********************** My Ántonia 5 stars Death Comes for the Archbishop 4 stars One of Ours 4 stars O Pioneers! 3 stars Sapphira and the Slave Girl 2 stars A Lost Lady 2 stars

  18. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Rating: 5* of five This book is a survivor. Closing in on 90 years after its initial appearance, it's still on must-read lists. For a good reason: It's a neither-fish-not-fowl book. As a history, it's a good novel; as a novel, it's fascinating history. Enough fiction was larded onto the flesh of New Mexico's post-annexation history to make this a tasty roast. Like a roast, it's served in slices, as the stories of Latour/Lamy's progress in creating the Archdiocese of New Mexico are too numerous to Rating: 5* of five This book is a survivor. Closing in on 90 years after its initial appearance, it's still on must-read lists. For a good reason: It's a neither-fish-not-fowl book. As a history, it's a good novel; as a novel, it's fascinating history. Enough fiction was larded onto the flesh of New Mexico's post-annexation history to make this a tasty roast. Like a roast, it's served in slices, as the stories of Latour/Lamy's progress in creating the Archdiocese of New Mexico are too numerous to tell each effectively. The storytelling mode makes the book feel less like an indigestible wodge of starchy glop, the unhappy fate of THE SONG OF BERNADETTE. Religious subjects of novels are more often in the Bernadette mode, sadly, since there is little in dramatic storytelling more engrossing than the journey inward to spiritual revelation. The events from the factual Archbishop Lamy's life that Cather chose to dramatize are among the best: The horrors committed in religion's name at Acoma stand out for me. There was an oppressive theocracy in place at Acoma, run for the sole benefit of a greedy priest whose cruelty was shielded by his isolation in the vastness of the Sonoran desert. The ending of that tale is very satisfying. If you haven't ever read this book, please do, it's a beaut.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Chaikin

    Read this in 2019 and wrote the first review below. Then just re-read it - see appended 2020 review at the end. I've increased the rating from 4 to 5 stars. 14. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather published: 1927 format: 300 page Vintage paperback from 1971 acquired: from my in-laws, who probably bought it in 1971 read: Feb 19-26, 2019 time reading: 6 hr 51 min, 1.4 min/page rating: 4 My Listy review: My first Cather hits all sorts of uncomfortable spots - missionaries, superiority of the re Read this in 2019 and wrote the first review below. Then just re-read it - see appended 2020 review at the end. I've increased the rating from 4 to 5 stars. 14. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather published: 1927 format: 300 page Vintage paperback from 1971 acquired: from my in-laws, who probably bought it in 1971 read: Feb 19-26, 2019 time reading: 6 hr 51 min, 1.4 min/page rating: 4 My Listy review: My first Cather hits all sorts of uncomfortable spots - missionaries, superiority of the religious and of western European culture. But Cather won me over because she was a great writer, humbled to the historical facts and to the landscape. She captures New Mexico, centered on Santa Fe, both in its 19th-century isolation and its natural timelessness. Will read more by her. Cather writes about two French Jesuit missionaries coming to New Mexico after it was taken from Mexico by the US in the 1848 Mexican-American war. The new Archbishop, originally from France, comes from Ohio to fill-in for the now foreign Mexican archbishop in Durango. Told in a series of stories, our bishop is notable for his melancholy, his diplomatic restraint and his sensitive adjustment to his people, who he observes and respects in a sincere kind of way - his people are Mexicans and natives, all Catholic. The natives are notable for some violence against their own priests. His assistant, also French, makes a different kind of heroic character, adds a bit of humor, and paves over a lot problems for the archbishop. Cather keeps to the factual oddities of 1850's New Mexico, especially in the landscape. She presents them as if a discovery, and describes what was essentially a wild isolated territory, with priests that have children, get very wealthy and otherwise abuse their role, or break Catholic priest behavior, and yet have the respect of their Mexican followers, and some tense cooperation with their native followers. It's a vivid picture of a place and time. The subtext drove me crazy. And the contrast between my discomfort with it, this "charming" of the French Jesuit missionaries, and my appreciation of the actual text really affected my reading and confuses this review. I thought about it the whole time I was reading, but I wish I could have worried about it less. In hindsight I think she had a real integrity. I suspect she wasn’t really aware of this unspoken dark side from the perspective we have now, and that she really meant to show everything as it was. But, of course, it's still there. I did really like Cather and plan to read more. Below is Acoma, an isolated native settlement, and a natural and essentially impervious fortress that protected the small tribe from attack. It was my favorite place described in the book. ----------------------------------------------- 25. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather read: Apr 16 – May 8, 2020 time reading: 7 hr 34 min, 1.5 min/page rating: 5 locations: Santa Fe, NM and around about the author American, born near Winchester, VA, later raised in Red Cloud, NE. December 7, 1873 – April 24, 1947 The latest in the Litsy cather buddy-read. The first time I read this I dwelled on Cather playing with religion and cultural superiorities, most of which turned out to be not something to worry about. First of all, Cather isn't Catholic. But, anyway, this time I could relax and read it without my guard up, and just enjoy what she's doing. So, I was able to embrace the other-worldly feel she immediately provides the reader (after a preface), putting us not so much in New Mexico in the 1850's, and in all its abrasive cultural complexities, but somewhere both quite beautiful and detached from all normal concerns. And I got a lot more out of the book this time. But it's a difficult book to capture, or to define exactly what she's doing. A lot of this is the way her writing has evolved and the way she can do things to the reader without our awareness. On Litsy I posted: "While I‘m in the midst of this, I think it‘s Cather‘s best - reflective (perfect for now), and so subtly, magnificently complex and simple at once. A living look at landscape and gently fraught spirituality. Having finished, I find it a very hard book to mentally categorize. It‘s both like and completely unlike all Cather‘s other works. Recommended."

  20. 4 out of 5

    Terence

    Michael Dirda has an essay in Classics for Pleasure on Willa Cather that focuses on this book. That and the gentle prodding of two GR Friends convinced me to give this author another chance. I had been "traumatized" in a high school English class reading My Antonia and had never quite recovered. I don't blame my teacher. I wasn't forced to read the book except insofar as he gave us a list of "great American literature" and told us to choose a book and write a paper on it. As the crusader knight Michael Dirda has an essay in Classics for Pleasure on Willa Cather that focuses on this book. That and the gentle prodding of two GR Friends convinced me to give this author another chance. I had been "traumatized" in a high school English class reading My Antonia and had never quite recovered. I don't blame my teacher. I wasn't forced to read the book except insofar as he gave us a list of "great American literature" and told us to choose a book and write a paper on it. As the crusader knight in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" opines: "He chose poorly." My own life experiences at the time ill prepared me for what makes Cather an important writer; unfortunately, it was just another boring assignment best finished as soon as possible. As you might deduce, I have much warmer feelings for Cather now than I did 20+ years ago. Though I'm not going to rush out and devour everything else she's written, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Death Comes for the Archbishop. It's a loosely structured collection of anecdotes that chronicles the missionary activities of two French Catholic priests - Jean Latour (the "archbishop" of the title) and his close friend and vicar, Joseph Vaillant - in the newly established diocese of Santa Fe. The year is 1848, when the US has taken the territory from Mexico, and the spiritual condition of the region's priests and parishioners is deplorable. Over the next 40 years, the two men re-energize their congregation and are continually reaffirmed in their faith. Though friends, Fathers Latour and Vaillant couldn't be more different - both physically and mentally. Latour is aristocratic and often uncomfortable associating with his desperately poor and ignorant flock; Vaillant comes from peasant stock and enthusiastically throws himself into the ministry. Both men come to love deeply both the land and the people; a love returned by their charges. While not a "slow" or "long" read (it's only 299 pages in my edition), I found it a "calming" read. Even in the most "active" parts such as "The Lonely Road to Mora," where Latour and Vaillant barely escape the murderous attentions of a scoundrel and rescue his abused Mexican wife, there's a quiet rhythm to the story that carries the reader along. This passage from "Eusabio" both reflects what I'm trying to convey and describes it (if one equates "Indians" with the book as a whole): ...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... (p. 235). There were several passages that particularly impressed me while I was reading. The first comes in "The Miser," where Cather takes the opportunity of the death of a parish priest to observe the sacral nature of traditional beliefs about death. And by "sacral" I don't mean anything specific to a particular religion but rather the idea that death is a moment when the soul made its entrance into the next world, passing in full consciousness through a lowly door to an unimaginable scene, rather than simply the moment when certain bodily organs ceased to function (p. 170). Probably the most difficult part in reading this book was empathizing with Latour or Vaillant. I'm not by any stretch of the imagination religious - I fear I have lapsed far from my Catholic heritage - and getting into the heads and motivations of these characters could be difficult. For example, a cynic could easily read Vaillant's constant trolling for contributions as a crass effort to bilk the peasants of what little wealth they possessed. There were, however, passages that helped me. The one I have in mind is in "Auspice, Maria!": It was just this solitariness of love in which a priest's life could be like his Master's. It was not a solitude of atrophy, of negation, but of perpetual flowering. A life need not be cold, or devoid of grace in the worldly sense, if it were filled by Her who was all the graces... (p. 256). And then there's the final, deathbed scenes, including: More and more life seemed to him an experience of the Ego, in no sense the Ego itself.... The mistakes of his life seemed unimportant; accidents that had occurred en route... (p. 290). Of course, no review of a Cather novel is complete without some mention of her powerful descriptive ability. I've been to New Mexico and I didn't see half of what she saw (alas). From the first few pages, Cather paints word-pictures that vividly put the reader into the scene: The Cardinal had an eccentric preference for beginning his dinner at this time in the late afternoon, when the vehemence of the sun suggested motion. The light was full of action and had a peculiar quality of climax - of splendid finish. It was both intense and soft, with a ruddiness as of much-multiplied candlelight, an aura of red in its flames. It bored into the ilex trees, illuminating their mahogany trunks and blurring their dark foliage; it warmed the bright green of the orange trees and the rose of the oleander blooms to gold; sent congested spiral patterns quivering over the damask and plate and crystal (p. 4). There's another passage where Cather describes a sunrise illuminating snow-covered mountains but I neglected to mark it; you'll have to trust me that it's a glorious description. A final thought: There's a powerful element of nostalgia and grief over lost traditions and the destruction of nature. Latour, in particular, recognizes the worthiness of civilization, after all his Church is a product of it and the cathedral he eventually erects, a symbol, but he rues the loss of simplicity and the natural rhythms along which life runs: Beautiful surroundings, the society of learned men, the charms of noble women, the graces of art, could not make up to him for the loss of those light-hearted mornings of the desert, for that wind that made one a boy again. He had noticed that this peculiar quality in the air of new countries vanished after they were tamed by man and made to bear harvests.... The moisture of plowed land, the heaviness of labor and growth and grain-bearing, utterly destroyed it; one could breathe that only on the bright edges of the world, on the great grass plains or the sage-brush desert (p. 275).

  21. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    3.5/5 Once before he had been carried out of the body thus to a place far away. He had turned a corner and come upon an old woman with a basket of yellow flowers; sprays of yellow sending out a honey-sweet perfume. Mimosa - but before he could think of the name he was overcome by a feeling of place, was dropped, cassock and all, into a garden in the south of France where he had been sent one winter in his childhood... It's rare these days in reading that I'll come across a childhood thought or 3.5/5 Once before he had been carried out of the body thus to a place far away. He had turned a corner and come upon an old woman with a basket of yellow flowers; sprays of yellow sending out a honey-sweet perfume. Mimosa - but before he could think of the name he was overcome by a feeling of place, was dropped, cassock and all, into a garden in the south of France where he had been sent one winter in his childhood... It's rare these days in reading that I'll come across a childhood thought or form, especially during my customary long bouts of first reads rarely broken by a revisit. These rediscoveries are not even guaranteed to be pleasant, for there is so much more to be aware of these days in terms of the lies youth is bred upon and only shamefully realized much later in time. So it was a marvel, then, that I found this pulsepoint of evocation in not one, but two pleasant forms, first in the synopsis and second in the cover illustration of my eventually happened upon edition. I am now determined to keep the name Sally Mara Sturman in mind for reasons of artistic acquisition, as well as a far off dream of a book of my own that needs favorable presenting to the world. The childhood experience is Brian Jacques' Redwall series, and the key binding factor is the wealth of sense that strongly flows without ever overwhelming. There are other, stronger similarities, the most obvious being the religious setting of Redwall Abbey and its far more orthodox counterpart the Catholic Church, but that is only surface tension. I may have missed whatever theological imports Jacques slipped in with his mouse friars and novices, but it was far from the weighty bearing Catholicism had on every aspect of far more adult book. What was planted then and sprouted now is my love for rich simplicity, lofty in its appreciation of landscape imagery and earthily enthusiastic over the descriptions of food both gourmet and plucked. I would like to leave that precious feeling at that, but I must say that my issues with the book can be summed up with this: "No matter, Father. I see your redskins through Fenimore Cooper, and I like them so. Cather followed through with this in lavishing all of her attention on her Bishops and Priests and cutting every other category of character short, whether Mexican or Native American or female. The two main characters themselves may have been well intentioned and marvelously appreciative of their aesthetic surroundings, but there was far too much romanticization of one culture imposing itself on all the other for my tastes, whether it was the US clearing out land of its original inhabitants or missionaries seeing the unconverted as 'childish' and 'out of date' and converting them accordingly. I'm especially amazed at how unfavorably Cather treated her female characters; I don't expect authors to be especially able at crafting fictional personas based on amount of shared characteristics, but I've read male authors who were less misogynistic in their treatment. Despite that, I truly did enjoy the book, and want to accord it a rating that matches that enjoyment. So, 4.5 stars for the pleasure, minus 1.5 stars for the contentious issues, and another half star awarded for the absolute beauty of the front cover. ...the violet that is full of rose colour and is yet not lavender; the blue that becomes almost pink and then retreats again into sea-dark purple...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

    What a gorgeous novel, just luxuriously beautiful. Cather describes the land and people of New Mexico with great affection. Never hurried, her gentle prose captures the life of a sensitive, intellectual man, Bishop La Tour, who accepts a life of hardship in order to bring Catholicism to the American frontier. His dedication, sincerity, and persistence are all admirable. I couldn't help but think of Zane Grey's fiction while I was reading this book. He also described the landscape in loving detail What a gorgeous novel, just luxuriously beautiful. Cather describes the land and people of New Mexico with great affection. Never hurried, her gentle prose captures the life of a sensitive, intellectual man, Bishop La Tour, who accepts a life of hardship in order to bring Catholicism to the American frontier. His dedication, sincerity, and persistence are all admirable. I couldn't help but think of Zane Grey's fiction while I was reading this book. He also described the landscape in loving detail. Unlike Grey, Cather believed in the persistence of native populations and cultures and saw the value in them. Her tale is romantic, but not in the personal sense. There are no romantic relationships like those that provide the backbone of Grey's novels. The main connection is between the Bishop and his Church. Cather values the church, while I don't remember much religion in Grey's work, except for the unfortunate Mormons who often became his reviled bad guys. I found myself feeling strong nostalgia at the book's end, tearing up as death came for the Archbishop. Following his friend and partner in the work, Joseph, and most of his other friends. The gathering of the community made me both happy and sad. There are no dramatic conflicts, just the basics of religious life in a frontier area. People rarely speak of death in our time, but death comes to us all. Cather shows us a man who has lived his life well and faces his death with calm and dignity. Cross posted at my blog: https://wanda-thenextfifty.blogspot.c...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dhanaraj Rajan

    The Verdict: It is an excellent piece of literature. Instantly, it has become one of my personal favourites meaning it would be read by me for many more times in the future. In short, I will carry it with me as long as I have the ability and sanity to read and understand. An Introduction: This book is about two ‘pioneering French missionaries’ and their missions in New Mexico. The novel is based on the true life stories of Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, the first Archbishop of Santa Fe and his com The Verdict: It is an excellent piece of literature. Instantly, it has become one of my personal favourites meaning it would be read by me for many more times in the future. In short, I will carry it with me as long as I have the ability and sanity to read and understand. An Introduction: This book is about two ‘pioneering French missionaries’ and their missions in New Mexico. The novel is based on the true life stories of Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, the first Archbishop of Santa Fe and his companion, Joseph Projectus Machebeuf and their mission among the Mexicans and the Indians of New Mexico in the 19th century. So, this novel is about two Catholic priests and their missions. When the novel was published the critics never claimed that it was a novel in its classical sense. Willa Cather responded saying: “Why bother? Many more reviewers assert vehemently that it is not a novel. Myself, I prefer to call it a narrative.” And so, it is a Narrative. And she is right. The ‘novel’ is divided into nine episodes excepting the prologue. And each episode is purposefully divided into short chapters. Each chapter is a valuable literary artistically well cut out with much care and love. Each chapter and each episode shines brightly to outshine the other chapters and the episodes. Willa Cather, the master craftsman delights the reader right at the beginning with a precious gem and in the following chapters maintains the wonder and the reverence of the reader with the equally perfect writing without a moment of slack or dullness. The Treasure Trove: 1. The Landscape: The descriptions are evocative. With the missionaries we too can feel travelling the hard sand and rocky trail of New Mexico on the horse backs. We, readers too can climb with the missionaries on one of the mesas of the Indians; we participate in some of the Indian rituals; we are made to live in an adobe house; etc. Along with the landscapes; some revealing reflections accompany us – I specially loved the one in which the Bishop compares Indian way of living in the nature and the modern people’s way of living in the nature. A worthy long quote: It was the Indian manner to vanish into the landscape, not to stand out against it. The Hopi villages that were set upon rock mesas were made to look like the rock on which they sat, were imperceptible at a distance. The Navajo hogans, among the sand and willows, were made of sand and willows. None of the pueblos would at that time admit glass windows into their dwellings. The reflection of the sun on the glazing was to them ugly and unnatural even dangerous. …..They seemed to have none of the European’s desire to ‘master’ nature, to arrange and re-create. They spent their ingenuity in the other direction, in accommodating themselves to the scene in which they found themselves. This was not so much from indolence, the Bishop thought, as from an inherited caution and respect. It was as if the great country were asleep, and they wished to carry on their lives without awakening it; or as if the spirits of the earth and air and water were things not to antagonize and arouse….The land and all that it bore they treated with consideration; not attempting to improve it, they never desecrated it. 2. The Spiritual Reflections: I found this book to be a spiritual treasure trove as well. There are passages that can lead you to contemplative arrest, that is, after reading those passages or the reflections one will not be able to read further without stopping over to mull over the message/to stay in a contemplative mood. The Eighth Episode (The Great Diocese) is one such example. A Quote: “Where there is great love there are always miracles,” he said at length. “One might almost stay that an apparition is human vision corrected by divine love. I do not see you as you really are, Joseph; I see you through my affection for you. The Miracles of the Church seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always.” Willa Cather has made some splendid observations on the Catholic Church and has splattered the novel with some fantastic Catholic reflections. And the fact to be noted specially here in this context is that Willa Cather was not a Catholic. 3. Character Studies: The characters of both the Bishop and his Vicar are easily perceptible – Bishop is quiet, meditative, ideal, courteous and gentle and the Vicar is active, impulsive, practical, joy loving and easy to form a relationship. Reading these characters working together in a mission is narrated in an interesting manner. The differences, in fact, keep them together. And the reader can feel that in the writings. The missionary priest’s longing for the home, his own people, his own language, his own food is also aptly mentioned. The Catholic priest’s solitary life at times accompanied by loving thoughts of a life surrounded by family also gets mentioned. Finally: It is about a person who in his last days could claim thus: “I shall not die of a cold, my son. I shall die of having lived.” At the End: I loved everything of this edition (Virago Modern Classics) right from the cover design, the introduction by A. S. Byatt and the presentation of the book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cathrine ☯️

    4✚★ Prose as lovely as a sunset over the Rio Grande Gorge telling an affecting story of two most admirable men and their lifelong friendship. I can picture Georgia O'Keeffe reading this while taking a break from her studio work in Abiquiú. Why have I waited so long to read Cather? What a treat. 4✚★ Prose as lovely as a sunset over the Rio Grande Gorge telling an affecting story of two most admirable men and their lifelong friendship. I can picture Georgia O'Keeffe reading this while taking a break from her studio work in Abiquiú. Why have I waited so long to read Cather? What a treat.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lynne King

    Beautiful surroundings, the society of learned men, the charm of noble women, the graces of art, could not make up to him for the loss of those light-hearted mornings of the desert, for that wind that made one a boy again. These are the thoughts of a man who is deciding upon whether to retire to live in the country of his birth, France, or remain in New Mexico. This is the most perfect and exquisite book that I have ever read. I actually don’t know however why I purchased it in the first place. Th Beautiful surroundings, the society of learned men, the charm of noble women, the graces of art, could not make up to him for the loss of those light-hearted mornings of the desert, for that wind that made one a boy again. These are the thoughts of a man who is deciding upon whether to retire to live in the country of his birth, France, or remain in New Mexico. This is the most perfect and exquisite book that I have ever read. I actually don’t know however why I purchased it in the first place. The title was enough to discourage me and the blurb that mentioned two French priests going to New Mexico in 1851 to reawaken its slumbering Catholicism was not that exciting. Well when I finished page 1, I was well and truly hooked and became more captivated as I finished each page. The writing style was all that I could wish for. The novel, actually more of a narration, is multi-faceted with its descriptions of the mountains and deserts, especially with the different colours in the landscape, situations with the local population, whether they be Indian, Mexican or American, and religious and spiritual aspects but it all nevertheless coalesced into one. The interesting fact is that most of the Indian practices were unknown to people outside the tribes. The two priests, Father [Jean Marie] Latour, consecrated Vicar Apostolic of New Mexico and Bishop of Agathonica in partibus and Father [Joseph] Vaillant had known each other for many years in France and in the States. But what a difference in their personalities. Father Latour was an academic and looked one with a refined facial expression and elegant behaviour; and also a book lover. Whereas Father Vaillant, who spent a great deal of time, in a huge parish, visiting everyone on horseback to try and convert them, and though eventually highly liked, was extremely ugly with a wart on the end of his nose, short and bow-legged. He was also of a sickly disposition and several times in the book it looked as if “his number was up” but survived. He was known as “trompe-la-mort” – literally death cheater. This in fact happened several times when he was travelling in New Mexico and the only way he could be reached, normally in isolated places, was of course by horseback. Over nearly forty years, the two friends leave converts and enemies, crosses and occasionally ecstasy in their wake. The case with ecstasy was wonderfully portrayed in that of a Mexican slave to an American family, who kept a very close eye on her as they were concerned she would try and escape back to her family. Because of this she was not allowed to go to church. Father Latour then finds this old woman outside the door to his church in the middle of the night. He gently leads her into the church and the tears of joy and the look of ecstasy of her face of being in a church for the first time in nineteen years quite overwhelms him. Father Latour, who spent most of his life in Santa Fe, was eventually made an archbishop, whilst Father Vaillant, latterly an archbishop, spent most of his time in the saddle firstly in Albuquerque and latterly in Colorado. Certainly extremes between the two regions with the earlier region greatly preferred. In that period of the 19th century with the two priests, especially Father Vaillant, spending most of their time on horseback to visit their “parishioners”, it was not until the arrival of stage coaches (the first regular stage service for New Mexico was not inaugurated until 1850. In July of that year, a coach left Independence, Mo., for Santa Fe) but I guess they were insufficient for the two priests’ needs and requirements, as well as the train, of which the official arrival celebration was held 22 April 1880, were indeed two greatly welcome changes in their already enriched lives. The tales that the local priests tell Father Latour and Father Vaillant are fascinating to say the least, especially that of Friar Baltazar at some time in the very early years of seventeen hundred, nearly after the great Indian uprising, in which all the missionaries and all the Spaniards in northern New Mexico were either driven out or murdered, after the country had been reconquered and new missionaries had come to take the place of the martyrs, a certain Friar Baltazar Montoya was priest at Arcoma. He was ambitious and exacting and ruled the puebla of Acoma. The Indians there had to more or less put up with him until one fine day he accidentally killed an Indian boy working in his house. And what a delicious and yet incredible ending to that spectacular tale! I could go on ad infinitum about this book and have already started a second reading. So I had better close here.

  26. 4 out of 5

    booklady

    My favorite by Cather; read this aloud when we did our family Grand Circle trip, especially the part in New Mexico. Such a gentle, quiet story. I know that my children were not touched by it as I am/was, but I'm still glad they know about it. It is a fictionalized account of the real life of the first archbishop of the western territory, a simple, saintly man who lived his faith without fuss or fanfare. The book is actually soothing to read, but I think it takes a certain maturity to fully appre My favorite by Cather; read this aloud when we did our family Grand Circle trip, especially the part in New Mexico. Such a gentle, quiet story. I know that my children were not touched by it as I am/was, but I'm still glad they know about it. It is a fictionalized account of the real life of the first archbishop of the western territory, a simple, saintly man who lived his faith without fuss or fanfare. The book is actually soothing to read, but I think it takes a certain maturity to fully appreciate it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Julie Durnell

    This book was so amazing well written-Willa Cather is at her best here. Each chapter was more like a painting than just words on a page. Beautiful and evocative setting of the southwest. The relationship between Bishop Latour and Father Vaillant, beginning when they were young men headed to seminary, slowly evolves along with their faith in God (Catholicism is beside the point here) until death comes for them both. The Mexican peoples and native American tribes are wonderfully portrayed, one ach This book was so amazing well written-Willa Cather is at her best here. Each chapter was more like a painting than just words on a page. Beautiful and evocative setting of the southwest. The relationship between Bishop Latour and Father Vaillant, beginning when they were young men headed to seminary, slowly evolves along with their faith in God (Catholicism is beside the point here) until death comes for them both. The Mexican peoples and native American tribes are wonderfully portrayed, one aches at the brutality of forcing the Navaho from their land, which was thankfully restored to them.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Margitte

    1851. Central New Mexico. Catholic priests. Indians. Mexicans. The story of the Catholic Church in this new American territory. The friendship between two priests who leave their native, beloved France to become the church leaders in the new territory with the remote Santa Fe as their destination. It feels good to open a book that was written in the 1800s. and listen to the voices of the people who populated that part of history . Their long-forgotten tales open brand new and fresh before our ver 1851. Central New Mexico. Catholic priests. Indians. Mexicans. The story of the Catholic Church in this new American territory. The friendship between two priests who leave their native, beloved France to become the church leaders in the new territory with the remote Santa Fe as their destination. It feels good to open a book that was written in the 1800s. and listen to the voices of the people who populated that part of history . Their long-forgotten tales open brand new and fresh before our very eyes. It feels good to catch the melody in the prose, and capture the essence of the gentle souls of the characters. The history of New Mexico and Santa Fe in particular was a delight to read for me as a non-resident. This isn't a mind-grabbing, soul-ripping book with high-chase cowboy dramas or political battles reigning on the parade. However, in its quiet grace it commemorates a part of history in a unique significant way. A good experience for anyone interested in this genre and this part of the American story. I do not know much about Willa Cather and can only assume that she attracted attention with her straight-talk and the way she wrote history down. She could not have been very popular at the time, yet she realized the importance of telling history from her particular angle. Reading her novel made me realize how far ahead she was in her thinking. Perhaps there were many writers like her who begs to be rediscovered. This tale is about the development and expansion of Catholic church in America. The challenges, the adventures, the hardships and personal experiences of some of the men who had to conquer the wild. A very good reading experience indeed.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Annet

    Read my review here, another edition: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Beautiful! Read my review here, another edition: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Beautiful!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (aka EM)

    Beautiful, scenic - my fave bits were the descriptions of the SW landscape and the hints that Cather gives us of how hard that life was for the two RC missionaries who head out to save the souls there. But what it didn't give me - which is what I like in my priestly books - is an intimate view of either their struggle with their faith or their devotion to it when challenged. Cather teased me with the stuff that I wanted to know much more about -- the relocation and slaughter of the Navajos and th Beautiful, scenic - my fave bits were the descriptions of the SW landscape and the hints that Cather gives us of how hard that life was for the two RC missionaries who head out to save the souls there. But what it didn't give me - which is what I like in my priestly books - is an intimate view of either their struggle with their faith or their devotion to it when challenged. Cather teased me with the stuff that I wanted to know much more about -- the relocation and slaughter of the Navajos and the Church's complicity in that. The tenuous balance between the vanishing Mexican and Indian cultures as the whites moved in. I think I was looking for more character development and more plot than this was ever intended to have, so in the end, I had to settle for the loveliness of the descriptions of landscape, and the gently evolving relationship between Fr. Vaillant and Fr. Latour. Cather describes beautifully the Indians' spiritual relationship to the land: "But their conception of decoration did not extend to the landscape. They seemed to have none of the European's desire to "master" nature, to arrange and re-create. They spent their ingenuity in the other direction; in accommodating themselves to the scene in which they found themselves. This was not so much from indolence, the Bishop thought, as from an inherited caution and respect. It was as if the great country were asleep, and they wished to carry on their lives without awakening it; or as if the spirits of earth and air and water were things not to antagonize and arouse. When they hunted, it was with the same discretion; an Indian hunt was never a slaughter. They ravaged neither the rivers nor the forest, and if they irrigated, they took as little water as would serve their needs. The land and all that it bore they treated with consideration; not attempting to improve it, they never desecrated it." Cather's level of environmental consciousness, there and elsewhere (the description of the setting of the Archbishop's cathedral was similarly evocative), and her understanding of the native American relationship to nature, seems so prescient (and so beautiful), writing from 1927. What she didn't give me, what I wanted to see, was some level of consciousness and conflict among those whites - and the two priests in particular - that the colonization of the land and the souls there was wrong. Instead, she shows me the Archbishop on his deathbed, stating: "'I have lived to see two great wrongs righted; I have seen the end of black slavery, and I have seen the Navajos restored to their own country.'" I suppose this perspective, from a character whose vantage point is so close in time to the occurrences, is as much as can be hoped for in the way of a political statement.

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