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Willa Cather's best known novel is an epic almost mythic story of a single human life lived simply in the silence of the southwestern desert In 1851 Father Jean Marie Latour comes to serve as the Apostolic Vicar to New Mexico What he finds is a vast territory of red hills and tortuous arroyos American by law but Mexican and Indian in custom and belief In the almost forty years that follow Latour spreads his faith in the only way he knows gently all the while contending with an unforgiving landscape derelict and sometimes openly rebellious priests and his own loneliness Out of these events Cather gives us an indelible vision of life unfolding in a place where time itself seems suspended

10 thoughts on “Death Comes for the Archbishop

  1. says:

    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 uick 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. says:

    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'sWhat a wonderful beautiful book I'm lost for words right nowMore 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 thanksAlready 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 uiet 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. says:

    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 uite 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 truenames have been changed not to protect anyone but to make this story if not 100 % accurate close enough 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 US's unknown southwestern territory little populated and recently conuered 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 authoritythousands of miles of roads to travelthe 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 yearsalmost 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 dreamto 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 elseI willsuperb

  4. says:

    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 TerritoryThe 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 freuent 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 فوریه سال 2017 میلادیعنوان مرگ سراغ اسقف اعظم میآید؛ نویسنده ویلا کادر کتر؛ مترجم سلما رضوانجو؛ تهران، نشر شورآفرین، 1393، در 275 ص، شابک 9786006955599؛ سده 20 منویسنده‌ امریکایی برنده‌ ی جایزه ی پولیتزر، «ویلا کاتر 1873 میلادی تا 1947 میلادی»، ستایشگر غم و نومیدی ست، ایشان بیش‌تر شهرت خود را از طریق خلق 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 هم‌عصرش همانند «ارنست همینگوی» و «اسکات فیتس جرالد» میدانند «مرگ سراغ اسقف اعظم میآید» در نظرسنجی مجله ی «تایم»، در سال 2005 میلادی، عنوان بیستمین رمان بزرگ سده ی بیستم میلادی را به خود اختصاص داد، و در نظرسنجی دیگری، که موسسه انتشاراتی «رندوم هاوس» در سال 1999 میلادی انجام داد، این رمان عنوان شصت و یکمین رمان بزرگ سده ی بیستم میلادی را از آن خود کرد «مرگ سراغ اسقف اعظم می آید» درباره ی نخستین اسقف «نیومکزیکو»، «ژان ماریه لاتور»، و دستیارش «ژوزف ویان»، در دهه 1850 میلادی ست؛ که با دو قاطرشان، «آنجلیکا» و «کانتنو»، سراسر سرزمینهای غربی امریکا نیومکزیکو را، برای تبلیغ و گسترش آیین مسیحیت، زیر پا میگذارند «کاتر»، این رمان را براساس زندگی واقعی دو مبلغ مذهبی کاتولیک اسقف «لامی» و دستیارش بنوشته است رمان متشکل از نه بخش، و به صورت اپیزودیک است، و هر یک دوره ای از زندگی پدر «لاتور» را نشان میدهد داستان پر است از خلق 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 توصیفات 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 ا شربیانی

  5. says:

    Reading Road Trip 2020Current location New MexicoAh he thought—the Image the physical form of LoveAs 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 meI 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 distractionDo you know this song? Wise men say It looks like rain todayNext thing I knew I wasn't washing dishes any 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 aka the “Archbishop” And then I knew it I had fallen in love with a fictional priest Well that's far 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 TS Eliot is demanding to interject here Lips that would kiss Form prayers to broken stoneFather Latour suffers as we all suffer as he uite 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 and we see him in his strongest moments his faith completely restored by the Holy SpiritI 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 GodIf hereafter we have stars in our crowns yours will be a constellation

  6. says:

    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 knowThe story of these two priests Father Latour and Father Valillant who little 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 reservesold 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 AmericanThe 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 meetThe 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 otherThe 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 meCather 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 narratedDo not be fooled by those who claim that this is A Catholic Book only yes it is but it is so much 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 Tesuue 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 landsI 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 lifeSanta Fe territoriesuesto libro è un vero monumento non stiamo parlando unicamente di Fede ma di amicizia di a per i popoli per una terra uella del New Mexico Ho letto volutamente adagio uesto 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 conoscereLa storia di uesti 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 a immenso per ciò che Dio chiederà loro non rinchiusi nella diocesi a pregare da mattina sera ma visitando i popoli nuove riservevecchie 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 americaniLa fede che si fa viva nella sorte operosa degli uomini non ualcosa imbellettata e messa da parte per le funzioni ma un uotidiano operare per il prossimoL'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'altroI 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 meLa 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 narratoNon fatevi ingannare da chi sostiene che uesto sia Un libro cattolico si lo è ma è tantissimo altro la storia dei popoli che hanno vissuto in uelle aspre terre del Nuovo Mexicola storia dei coloni che arrivarono nella metà dell' 800 scappando dal Colorado e Wyoming soprattutto la storia del popolo indiano Navajo Apache Algochine e Tesuue dei loro spostamenti e della tragedia che dovettero subire dei primissimi Missionari del 600 catapultati in un luogo arido e inabitabileNon ho molto da aggiungere perchè sono piena nel cuore di uesta lettura e faccio fatica uando mi capita di trovare libri così significativi a mettere per iscritto ciò che emotivamente ho vissuto durante la lettura Non fatevi scappare uesta perla rara uesto rapportarsi nell' amicizia che niente altro chiederete di assaporare nella vita

  7. says:

    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

  8. says:

    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 acuaintances who built solid and strong relationships with them over the years and their country Oh my Their beautiful countryFather 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 picturesue 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 skyThis 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 wondersThis book has all of those ualities and I am impressed beyond measure These ualities may not be right for everyone but for me at this particular time it was perfect

  9. says:

    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 MacheboeufThe introduction by AS Byatt makes her debt to writings both by and about these men clear but the book is still an extraordinary evocation of a lost worldMy only criticism is that the characterisation is a little too black and white a modern writer would probably have been 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

  10. says:

    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 humanThe 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 thinkUltimately 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