HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Sibyl by Par Lagerkvist
Loading...

The Sibyl (original 1956; edition 1963)

by Par Lagerkvist, Naomi Walford

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
330433,275 (3.85)18
Member:hdcclassic
Title:The Sibyl
Authors:Par Lagerkvist
Other authors:Naomi Walford
Info:Vintage (1963), Paperback, 160 pages
Collections:Your library, Books, Other
Rating:***
Tags:None

Work details

The Sibyl by Pär Lagerkvist (1956)

None

None.

Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 18 mentions

Showing 4 of 4
This is a grand novel in the classical European tradition by the 1951 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Swedish author Par Lagerkvist. It is a poetic parable, telling a mythic tale of a wandering Jew, a man who journeys to Delphi to consult the oracle. However, arriving there, he is turned away: the question he wants to pose is one that is very often asked– one that is of little interest.
And it is true; his question is one that many want to have answered. He wants to know what his destiny is. However, the question must be viewed in its context, even if it is a common one. For this particular man has been condemned by God to an eternal life without blessing – to wander through the world to all eternity, and find no rest. Probably rightfully, he regards this as a punishment; and when the reality of life eternal dawned on him, life lost its meaning for him, and he lost everything – his wife, his child, his joy in life.
“Eternity .. It has nothing to do with life, I thought; it is the contrary to all life. It is something limitless, endless, a realm of death which the living must look into with horror. Was it here that I was to dwell? .. “To all eternity ..” That was my death sentence: the most cruel that could be devised.”
The man has lost everything, he feels. His eyes are empty – they are dried up wells. There is no life inside any more.
Having been turned away from the oracle, he learns about an old priestess, a sibyl, who lives in disgrace up in the mountains; a woman that once served the oracle and had special powers– she was close to God. So he walks up the mountain to find her and pose his question.
There, he learns that she too, has had a clash with God. Like him, she has been punished. Or that she has most likely been punished. And gradually her story is revealed.
The Sibyl is a wonderful, often delightful book. Like so many of Lagerkvist's tales it is a contemplation on the nature of God and the relationship of God to man. A book about joy and sorrow, hope and hopelessness. It is beautifully written, full of heavy symbolism, quite moving and a very thought-provoking and captivating read. ( )
  jwhenderson | Jan 18, 2013 |
It strikes me that both The Sibyl and Lagerkvist's The Dwarf are about the divine that resides deep inside all of us -- but much closer to the surface in some. This divine is amoral -- it doesn't follow the rules of good or evil -- it's much more like the divine power in the Book of Job. Unknowable.

The Dwarf is an allegory set in Renaissance Italy. I don't think the Dwarf is actually even a character in the novel despite that he is the narrator. He's the impulse to power, to avenge, to destroy, that lurks in humanity. When it's unleashed, all hell breaks loose. At the end of the novel, he's chained to an underground cell, but he knows that he'll be freed at some point, because he is needed.

In The Sibyl, the Wandering Jew, cursed with eternal life because he refused to let Jesus, on his way to be crucified, rest his head against his wall, has come to Delphi to seek wisdom from the Oracle. As an alien, he is driven away from the temple, but he discovers an ancient sybil high in the hills who recounts her tale of divine possession to him. She does not understand the divine possession that had taken hold of her, but she has borne the son of the god -- a mute idiot. Her life has been spent ostracized from the common life of humanity, except for a brief passionate love.

One interesting grace note that the novels share is that enigmatic smile -- the one that the painter Bernardo (Da Vinci) gives to his portrait of the Princess in The Dwarf and that an ancient statue of the god bears in The Sibyl:

"Suddenly he knew of what that perpetual smile reminded him. It was the image of a god which he had seen yesterday, down in the temple at Delphi: an ancient image standing somewhat apart as if to make room for newer, finer images. It had the same smile, enigmatic and remote, at once meaningless and inscrutable. A smile neither good nor evil, yet for that very reason frightening."

The characters in Lagerkvist's novels seem to be god-struck -- at once inspired and scapegoats for the common run of humanity (I couldn't help but to think of Ursula LeGuin's story, "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas").

Lagerkvist's other two famous novels, Barrabas about the thief who is freed by Pontius Pilate in exchange for Jesus, and The Death of Ahasuerus, who is the wandering Jew, undoubtedly deal with a similar theme. ( )
1 vote janeajones | Apr 14, 2010 |
A 1956 novel by the 1951 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, The Sibyl is the story of a man cursed by God who meets and hears the story of a woman cursed (or blessed?) by god (the story is set in post-Jesus Delphi). The woman was chosen at a young age to act as a pythia, or priestess/voice of god (note the lower case), and her life story plays out like a sort of photo negative version of certain aspects of the New Testament (not to be too specific, lest anyone get spoiled).

This was a pretty mentally difficult book to get through, although Lagerkvist's writing style is quite simple. From what I gleaned from Wikipedia, Lagerkvist was raised in a devoutly Christian household but later became irreligious; however, he still used Christian allegories and symbols to explore the ideas of good and evil. Those ideas are what make The Sibyl a very rewarding read, but also what make me feel like you could write a doctoral thesis on this book and still not necessarily grasp all of the nuances of Lagerkvist's thoughts. I don't think Lagerkvist was necessarily hostile to religion, but he was not afraid of portraying its darker aspects. I also remember that from reading Barabbas, another Lagerkvist novel, about 6 years ago--in that book, Barabbas, the man whose place on the cross Jesus took, is tormented by his inability to understand or connect with the faith that saved his life; let's just say that things do not end well for Barabbas. Needless to say, neither The Sibyl nor Barabbas are very uplifting. In fact, they could be said to be downpushing.

I don't know if all or most of Laverkvist's novels are along these same lines, but that seems to be his schtick based on the two that I've read (both of which I highly recommend. He's got such complicated thoughts on morality and contemplating the distinction between what is good and what is evil, and such weighty discussions are rare in fiction. ( )
2 vote wunderkind | Jan 22, 2010 |
This is an amazing book, provocative and challenging. Two characters, both outcasts cursed by God, come together to share their experiences. In both of their stories, there is the struggle of trying to determine who or what God *is,* who could be so purportedly loving and yet inflict so much suffering on His world. These two, alienated by society for their experience with the divine, agree that "there is no joy in seeing God."

It's a very challenging and depressing book theologically. God is emphatically not loving or kind in his treatment of the characters - he is distant and capricious, a numinous force but not a comforting one in the least. Still, if God is as magnificent and other as He is depicted, how could he not be terrifying?

I'm not sure where Lagerkvist's intentions lay in writing this book. It's really rather scathing - but is it meant to be scathing against God, against religion, or against a corrupt church? Maybe all three. In any case, it made me depressed and doubtful about turning to faith for comfort or guidance. Very provocative work, not one that I think I *like* very much, but I was really impressed and moved by. ( )
  the_awesome_opossum | Mar 2, 2009 |
Showing 4 of 4
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pär Lagerkvistprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Reich, WilliTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0394702409, Paperback)

In this powerful, poetic, and moving parable, the Wandering Jew of medieval Christian legend journeys to Delphi to consult the famed oracle of the pagans. He is turned away but not before learning that one of the most adept of the old priestesses, or sibyls, lives in disgrace in the mountains above the temple. In her rude goat-hut he seeks the meaning of his disastrous brush with the son of God. She reveals that she, too, has been touched by the son of a god, a very different son, not quite human, born of her own body. He dwells with her as a constant reminder of the betrayal of her mystical and erotic union with the divine, her punishment, and—perhaps—her redemption.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:36:35 -0400)

In this powerful, poetic, and moving parable, the Wandering Jew of medieval Christian legend journeys to Delphi to consult the famed oracle of the pagans. He is turned away but not before learning that one of the most adept of the old priestesses, or sibyls, lives in disgrace in the mountains above the Temple. In her rude goat-hut he seeks the meaning of his disastrous brush with the son of God. She reveals that she, too, has been touched by the son of a god, a very different son, not quite human, born of her own body. He dwells with her as a constant reminder of the betrayal of her mystical and erotic union with the divine, her punishment, and--perhaps--her redemption.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
3 wanted5 pay5 pay

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.85)
0.5
1
1.5
2 3
2.5
3 9
3.5 6
4 21
4.5 6
5 7

Audible.com

Two editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

See editions

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 89,565,267 books! | Top bar: Always visible