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A Canticle for Leibowitz by Jr. Walter M.…

A Canticle for Leibowitz (original 1959; edition 1976)

by Jr. Walter M. Miller

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8,887246538 (3.95)1 / 428
Title:A Canticle for Leibowitz
Authors:Jr. Walter M. Miller
Info:Bantam Books (1976), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:Fiction, Science Fiction, Deep Time,

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A Canticle for Leibowitz by Jr. Walter M. Miller (1959)

1960s (4)
1950s (137)

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English (238)  French (3)  Finnish (1)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (244)
Showing 1-5 of 238 (next | show all)
The first half was good, showing how people renewed civilization after a nuclear war, but the ending was very depressing. ( )
  nhlsecord | Mar 11, 2019 |
A great indictment against the paranoia and war-mongering infecting politics, 'A Canticle for Leibowitz' is as powerful today as I imagine it was when it was first published 50 years ago. It has had its fair share of imitators, but I haven't read the book that has touched on these themes with such huge scope and such elegance. By all rights the book should be disjointed, with, on the surface, the only common elements being its setting in a small abbey in the Midwest and a Wandering Jew character.

Its a very Catholic book and I didn't even try to parse out the Latin, besides the obvious, but the idea of laborious preservation and monastic guardianship against the loss of everything is inspired. Reading this book, if nothing else, finally made me understand why so much writing has been lost. I'm impressed we have as much as we do from ancient times.

The story lagged for me in several parts of the last section, but it ends as tight as a fist. In that endless argument of Literature vs. genre-writing, this one is one of the stronger examples we have for the defense.

A sequel does exist, but I doubt I'll get to it.


Next: 'Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman' ( )
1 vote ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
A highly interesting, challenging at times, and fantastic read. Brush up on your Latin and be prepared to experience three lifetime worth of story in this work of fiction. In some ways it bears comparison to 1984 and A Brave New World as a warning to us as humans and the choices we make individually and collectively, but I find that it differs from those two dystopian novels in offering hope even in the midst of unspeakable horror. It is a must read and deserves to be better known than it appears to be. Homo Quo vadis? ( )
3 vote MusicforMovies | Jan 26, 2019 |
One of the earliest examples of post-nuclear fiction, the winner of Hugo award for 1961. The story is as far from Mad Max as one can possibly be – it depicts the life of catholic monks, who try to preserve the knowledge they themselves barely understood. It is quite unlike a lot of SF stories, which, especially at that time, were written chiefly by men and predominantly agnostic or atheist, at least from what you can guess from their writing. While Miller jokes about everyday life of monks, this is a deeply religious story, but one can feel it mainly in the last chapters. ( )
1 vote Oleksandr_Zholud | Jan 9, 2019 |
A Canticle for Leibowitz is a classic of science fiction and the mother of all post-apocalyptic fiction.

Written in the atomic area, it examines the state of society after an atomic holocaust. The anger of the survivors is so great that they kill all the rulers and their advisers and eventually even everyone who is literate.

In these dark times, there is a Catholic monk order that preserves the knowledge of the age of enlightenment by memorizing, copying and storing books so that in the future the society can be rebuilt, even though they don't understand most of what they read. We follow these monks and abbots through the centuries of their quest to preserve the knowledge, get their patron Leibowitz anointed as saint and remain faithful to Catholic dogma. This goes on all the way to the new age of enlightenment and onward towards the discovery of spaceflight.

Religion, more specifically Catholicism, is all-pervasive in this work, both philosophically and liturgically. By the latter I mean that many religious rituals are described, Latin and all. Possibly a few too many, although I surprisingly didn't find that and all the Latin passages (of which some are translated and some aren't) as annoying as I feared.

Don't get me wrong, there's definitely some annoying religious apologia here. For one thing, apparently only the Catholic church has survived the apocalypse, at least on the American continent. Except for some tribal shamanism all the others went poof.

It's definitely the case that Miller is a big proponent of the concept of the Catholic's Church prominent role in the preservation of science in the middle ages, which in my view is a bit problematic. Of course, it's true that the religious orders played a role in that, but the portrayal of them as the sole candle kept burning through darkness is too much, as it conveniently ignores some other facts. Like the fact that most what was preserved was what was in line with religious dogma, whereas some things that opposed it got destroyed. Naturally, it also ignores the fact that this view is very Euro-centric. The peoples of Mesoamerica, such as the Aztecs and the Mayans, did a fine job of preserving their writings - until the Catholic church came along and burned them. One survived as it was sent to Europe as a curiosity - should now the Catholic church get credit for the preservation of this volume, horrifyingly known as the "Madrid" Codex? Umm, I think not. And I won't even go into the centuries of persecution of freethinkers, women and let's not just not get into the Inquisition.

In the last third, there's also an abbot who espouses in my view pretty reprehensible absolutist views against euthanasia, without really explaining why he wouldn't afford radiation burn victims suffering incredible pain the relief of ending it all - other than it being religious dogma, of course.

Griping over, as except for this religious tunnel vision, the Canticle is pretty much a masterpiece. Despite the fact that the work spans millennia and characters therefore change constantly, they are really well portrayed - you find yourself pulling for them even when you don't agree with them. Miller also demonstrates profound knowledge of certain subjects apart from the Catholic religion, including certain scientific and engineering concepts. The writing is fairly engaging, although by necessity there is quite a bit of introspection and living inside characters' heads.

Best of all, this is the kind of work that gets you thinking about our fate, and faith for that matter. Is mankind's self-destruction inevitable? Is it cyclical? How do we avoid it? What role does religion play in that? An absolute must read for lovers of post-apocalyptic fiction. ( )
2 vote matija2019 | Jan 8, 2019 |
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» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miller, Walter M., Jr.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Feck, LouCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marosz, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Picacio, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rambelli, RobertaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Russell, Mary DoriaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Serrano, ErvinCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Viskupic, GaryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weiner, TomNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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a dedication is only
a scratch where it itches—
for ANNE, then
in whose bosom RACHEL lies
guiding my clumsy song
and giggling between the lines
—with blessings, Lass
First words
Brother Francis Gerard of Utah might never have discovered the blessed documents, had it not been for the pilgrim with girded loins who appeared during that young novice's Lenten fast in the desert.
There were spaceships again in that century, and the ships were manned by fuzzy impossibilities that walked on two legs and sprouted tufts of hair in unlikely anatomical regions. They were a garrulous kind. They belonged to a race quite capable of admiring its own image in a mirror, and equally capable of cutting its own throat before the alter of some tribal god, such as the deity of Daily Shaving. It was a species which often considered itself to be, basically, a race of divinely inspired tool makers; any intelligent entity from Arcturus would instantly have perceived them to be, basically, a race of impassioned after-dinner speechmakers.
“The closer men came to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they seemed to become with it, and with themselves as well. They made a garden of pleasure, and became progressively more miserable with it as it grew into richness and power and beauty; for then, perhaps, it was easier for them to see that something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow. When the world was in darkness and wretchedness, it could believe in perfection and yearn for it. But when the world became bright with reason and riches, it began to sense the narrowness of the needle’s eye, and that rankled for a world no longer willing to believe or yearn. Well, they were going to destroy it again, were they-this garden Earth, civilized and knowing, to be torn apart again that Man might hope again in wretched darkness.” (page 285)
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Miller published a short story in 1955 with this title. Please do not combine the novel with the short story.
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Book description
Set in a Catholic monastery in the desert of the southwestern United States after a devastating nuclear war, the story spans thousands of years as civilization rebuilds itself. The monks of the fictional Albertian Order of Leibowitz take up the mission of preserving the surviving remnants of man's scientific knowledge until the day the outside world is again ready for it.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060892994, Paperback)

Walter M. Miller's acclaimed SF classic A Canticle for Leibowitz opens with the accidental excavation of a holy artifact: a creased, brittle memo scrawled by the hand of the blessed Saint Leibowitz, that reads: "Pound pastrami, can kraut, six bagels--bring home for Emma." To the Brothers of Saint Leibowitz, this sacred shopping list penned by an obscure, 20th-century engineer is a symbol of hope from the distant past, from before the Simplification, the fiery atomic holocaust that plunged the earth into darkness and ignorance. As 1984 cautioned against Stalinism, so 1959's A Canticle for Leibowitz warns of the threat and implications of nuclear annihilation. Following a cloister of monks in their Utah abbey over some six or seven hundred years, the funny but bleak Canticle tackles the sociological and religious implications of the cyclical rise and fall of civilization, questioning whether humanity can hope for more than repeating its own history. Divided into three sections--Fiat Homo (Let There Be Man), Fiat Lux (Let There Be Light), and Fiat Voluntas Tua (Thy Will Be Done)--Canticle is steeped in Catholicism and Latin, exploring the fascinating, seemingly capricious process of how and why a person is canonized. --Paul Hughes

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:22 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

A Canticle for Leibowitz opens 600 years after 20th century civilization has been destroyed by a global nuclear war, known as the "Flame Deluge." As a result of the war, there was a violent backlash against the culture of advanced knowledge and technology that had led to the development of nuclear weapons. During this backlash, called the "Simplification," anyone of learning, and eventually anyone who could even read, was likely to be killed by rampaging mobs, who proudly took on the name of "Simpletons". Illiteracy became almost universal, and books were destroyed en masse. Isaac Edward Leibowitz had been a Jewish electrical engineer working for the United States military. Surviving the war, he converted to Roman Catholicism and founded a monastic order, the "Albertian Order of Leibowitz", dedicated to preserving knowledge by hiding books, smuggling them to safety (booklegging), memorizing, and copying them. Centuries after his death, the abbey is still preserving the "Memorabilia", the collected writings that have survived the Flame Deluge and the Simplification, in the hope that they will help future generations reclaim forgotten science.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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