This is an historical novel about Saint Bernadette Soubirous, the poor girl from Lourdes whose vision of a "lady in white," as she called her, led to the discovery of the spring in the grotto in Lourdes that has since been associated with many apparently miraculous cures and to which pilgrims and tourists still flock by the millions each year.
Franz Werfel tells, in his introduction to the book, of his flight from the Nazis in 1938 and the several weeks that he spent in Lourdes, which is where he learned the details of Bernadette's life, trials, apparitions, and eventual canonization. One night, he writes, he prayed to the Virgin Mary himself and vowed that, should he reach the U.S. safely, he would write the story of Bernadette.
This he did, and magnificently. Werfel, a Jew who had been sent to the Catholic schools in Austria while growing up, was one of the great European writers of the era, an associate of Thomas Mann and a contemporary of Rilke and Brecht. He wrote only two novels and was primarily a poet, and this shows in his careful, often lyrical prose. He also attends to important cultural struggles that still go on, most notably the opposition of the scientifically-minded to matters of faith. But most of all this is a heartfelt, almost loving portrait of the simple townsfolk of Lourdes and Bernadette herself.
Even a skeptic can enjoy this gem, but those who can grasp the truth in these pages will find it a stunning accomplishment and a book they will not want to end.
Apr 12, 2012
Secular review of Saint Bernadette
Book on Catholic saint written by clever Jewish Austrian writer who wrote his version of young Bernadette's life as fulfillment of a vow on his escape from Nazis in S France. The book provided basis for 1943 Oscar winning film THE SONG OF BERNADETTE.
Oct 29, 2007
A good and compelling story of an unusual occurence well written and presented. Also throws light on the politics of the time and human motivations that are strikingly similar in our times.
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