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

by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Leibowitz (1)

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8,679240538 (3.95)1 / 417
1960s (4)
1950s (139)
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English (233)  French (3)  Finnish (1)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (239)
Showing 1-5 of 233 (next | show all)
This book is a masterpiece. It leaves you with so much to consider and process. It's filled with hope and despair, of brokenness and restoration, and of a multitude of other ways to be conflicted. ( )
  Mattmcmanus | Aug 23, 2018 |
This may be the third time I've read this story in the last 50 years, but only now did the full import of it penetrate. Yes, the writing style and action made enough of an impression on me for me to recommend it to people over the years; but maybe I've finally I've grown up enough, emotionally, to understand the plot. And the cry for help. These are scary times we're living in, and now, more than ever, people need to read "A Canticle for Leibowitz". Maybe if enough of us read this book and recommend it to friends it might reach the nightstand of someone with influence in government. If you haven't read it yet...please do! It offers no solutions--and yet it doesn't suggest that there are no solutions. Even though the story involves a seeming doomsday, it's not a doomsday story: the cliff-hanging ending gives us room--and hope--for salvation. ( )
  majackson | Aug 20, 2018 |
I confess it took me a long while to get into this book, putting it down and then coming back to it several times. I was unprepared for the severe discontinuities between the three sections. But, once I found the rhythm, the experience was rewarding. This is a tale of living both in the shadow of past nuclear holocaust, and under threat of future ones. In tone it seemed to echo the contemporary On the Beach.

The thread that was of primary interest was the preservation of knowledge in such extreme circumstances, and the responsibilities of those who retained these shards of former civilization. The book is full of Roman Catholic imagery, and it helps if you know Latin. This reared its head especially in the third section with the extended debate about euthanasia in conditions of dire and irredeemable suffering such as radiation poisoning (he's against it, believing one should suffer through the agonizing death as an offering to God; in this he may well have been directly responding to On the Beach.). ( )
  dono421846 | Jun 15, 2018 |
A Canticle for Leibowitz is, I think, similar to Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Both books deal with the aftermath of a society that has taken conscious steps to reject knowledge and learning, and both deal with the value of books and those who would protect knowledge in an anti-intellectual and anti-learning environment.

The story is organized in Triptych format, and opens up in a "new dark age of man", after a nuclear apocalypse has caused massive devastation and led to a culture of willful ignorance and anti-intellectualism (since it was the smart people who led to the nuclear disaster being possible in the first place--smart people and the inevitable desire for power). A few pockets of learning have survived, though, one of them being the monks of St. Leibowitz, who was a 20th century (pre-apocalypse) engineer. The good monks have preserved, sometimes at the costs of their own lives, a few scattered writings and diagrams, which they lack the knowledge to understand anymore, but which they faithfully copy and preserve. Not unlike what actually has happened with monasteries in the past, which preserved and translated scientific and cultural texts with great effort and labor and oftentimes without full understanding of the meaning of the texts.

From there, we move to a Renaissance 2.0, where humanity is still stuck in a feudal state, but there seems to be less of a backlash toward intellectualism, and there are a few dedicated scientific and cultural researchers starting to emerge.

And from there we move back into a new modern era, where, unfortunately, humanity has not learned from its mistakes, and again becomes embroiled in nuclear war, leading to a number of medical and ethical conundrums. This section is especially valuable to me because of the ethical questions that arise. The book ends on a depressing note, as I would have expected, but maybe a note that hides some hope for humanity as well.

While "A Canticle" is very well written, I can't help but feel it's a depressing read. It seems like Miller is of the opinion that humanity will never overcome our innate brutish nature, no matter the consequences and we're stuck in the cycle of destruction --> backlash --> rebirth --> advancement -- destruction. While this may indeed be true (as a casual glance at the news shows), I am slightly more optimistic that we are not headed for a breakdown in anti-intellectualism, and hopefully not for a nuclear apocalypse. With the current political discourse in America, though, my flicker of optimism may in fact be poorly placed.

It's very interesting seeing the parallels between the monastic orders post-apocalypse, and the monastic orders that existed in the middle ages. Much the same seems to have happened--(relatively) advanced texts in arabic or greek were translated, and the translations were laboriously and artfully copied by monks with little understanding given to them. It took a few great minds and access to these translations to kick-start the renaissance and scientific learning and development again. And the same happens after the apocalypse, with the Monks of St. Leibowitz.

An exceedingly well written book, and one that needs to be read by everybody. ( )
2 vote L_Will | May 14, 2018 |
Wonderful epic about the circularity of time and movement of belief over the generations. ( )
  brakketh | May 6, 2018 |
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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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Epigraph
Dedication
a dedication is only
a scratch where it itches—
for ANNE, then
in whose bosom RACHEL lies
muselike
guiding my clumsy song
and giggling between the lines
—with blessings, Lass
W
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.
Quotations
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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)

» see all 7 descriptions

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