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February 20, 2023

#Classic Journal of a Village Priest

by NancyElin


Journal d'un curé de campagne by Georges Bernanos by Georges Bernanos Georges Bernanos

Finish date: February 2023
Genre: novel
Rating:  B
Review: Journal d’un curé de campagne (ISBN: 9782253162865)

Good news: This is a classic novel by one of the last French novelist whose narratives are strongly influenced by the Catholic church. The author offers here the diary of a country priest. He seems a bit naive to me as Le curé is straight out of the seminary and has little knowledge of the customs of the world and sometimes becomes the laughing stock of others. But this all changes…..

Bad news: Pg 1-34 was difficult to get into this book…lots of ‘Catholic Church’ bashing. Need to improve my “clerical French vocabulary” Toute de suite! Just when I think I can follow the daily journal of the priest….suddenly another character goes off on a rant about the ancient world, the rich aristocrats, the poor working class and the ever powerful L’Église. These rants in the first 30 % of the book (pg 7-101) totals 53 pages!! If I am going to finish this book I will have to skim the future harangues!

Personal: With all the drama that happens in a rural village (and there is a lot!) …Georges Bernanos distilled his view of the Catholic Church in just one sentence (pg 166) that impacted me:
“Who are you (church) to judge the faults of others?” The story is told by the priests recounting of his experiences in his diary. He reflects upon them with hindsight. Le curé is treated with hatred by many of the villiagers. They see him as an an unwanted intrusion into their lives. As he feels himself to be an outcast by the townspeople, he increasingly relies on his faith for strength.
But even this begins to fade. This was a very powerful book…once I got past the “rants” in the first 25% of the book. Bernanos was awarded the Grand prix du roman de l’Académie française in 1936, the year it was published. Journal d’un curé de campagne is considered one of the masterpieces of 20th century French literature. The book is available in English translation and a good suggestion for the European Reading challenge!

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