First published in 1960, The Violent Bear It Away is now a landmark in American literature. It is a dark and absorbing example of the gothic sensibility and bracing satirical voice that are united in Flannery O'Conner's work. In it, the orphaned Francis Marion Tarwater and his cousin, Rayber, defy the prophecy of their dead uncle - that Tarwater will become a prophet and will baptize Rayber's young son, Bishop. A series of struggles ensue, as Tarwater fights an internal battle against his innate faith and the voices calling him to be a prophet, while Rayber tries to draw Tarwater into a more “reasonable” modern world. Both wrestle with the legacy of their dead relatives and lay claim to Bishop's soul.
O'Connor observes all this with an astonishing combination of irony and compassion, humor and pathos. The result is a novel whose range and depth reveal a brilliant and innovative writer acutely alert to where the sacred lives and where it does not.
©1960 Flannery O'Connor (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“There is very little contemporary fiction which touches the level of Flannery O’Connor at her best.” (New York Herald Tribune)
“I am sure her books will live on and on in American literature.” (Elizabeth Bishop, American poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner)
But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^
O'Connor was ruthless in her vision. The struggle of Tarwater and his uncle Rayber against their joint destinies and the pull of fundamentalism and secularism is fully realized in this short novel. The Violent Bear it Away is biblical, American and absolutely brutal in both its imagery of destruction and language of redemption. I can only think of a handful of writers who seem to grab both my brain, my spine and my gut at the same time. O'Connor can't be over-appreciated; she was an absolute genius of passion and power. So brilliant and terrible was this novel, that I still exceedingly fear and quake.
This book is easily one of the best I have ever listened to. It is Flanery O'Connor, so one must be prepared to read this text like someone who understands literature. Remember that O'Connor is deeply rooted in Catholicism, and scholasticism. Remember that she is first and foremost a committed Christian. Her characters will be grotesque, and there will be tremendous violence and disturbing images, but the book will stick with you forever. It will point to deeper transcendent truths that are timeless and eternal.
Reading Flannery O'Connor will enrich your life, but please understand that you are not listening to surface level romance novels / John Grisham stuff here. This takes hard work and patience, but it is work that will be deeply enriching should you undertake it.
The narration is perfect. The southern accent throughout is very important, and the individual voices of each character are pitch perfect. Simply outstanding.
I am typically bored by literature that is too overtly influenced by the Christian faith/the Bible. Somehow, Flannery O'Connor has escaped such classification for me, and I am riveted by her, absolutely stunned: every time I read her, it feels like the first time I have encountered the idea of God. I liked Wise Blood, but The Violent Bear it Away is in a league of its own. This novel is so dark, and so unflinchingly intelligent and so surprising, and I wished it were 20 hours long instead of six. In fact, I listened to several chapters several times, not because they were difficult to follow, but because I was so amazed by her craft and its unfolding. It will be a difficult novel to follow-up.
The narrator interprets this novel in a wonderful way. The novel itself is superb. The narrator has a way of clarifying who's speaking and hinting at significant images as they unfold. Very satisfying.
One master-passion in the br east, like Aaron's serpent, swallows all the rest. A. Pope
If you were raised in the rural South or spent the summertime there with someone in your WASP family, you may still suffer the occasional nightmare, as I do, from the trauma left by hellfire and brimstone sermons or a fundamentalist Sunday "school" or two, having been left at an impressionable age (8 to 14) with the constant fear that you and all who have not yet been saved will be eternally damned if you do not save them from this blasphemous world, and spooked by the bountiful ignorance that surrounded you.
Flannery O'Connor, a devout Catholic, was super-critical of fundamentalist Protestants. Her short stories and two novels either explored dark religious themes or were tinged with often morbid religious undertones.
THE VIOLENT BEAR IT AWAY's title is taken from a verse in the Douay-Rhiens Catholic Bible at Matthew 11:12: "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away."
I'll forego delving into possible meanings of the title, and any discussion of the novel gives away what happens at and near the end of the book. I'll just say that it's a BRUTAL book, dealing with a 14-year-old boy, fanatical, Southern fundamentalists and the related themes of destruction and redemption.
If you are looking for an enjoyable summer read, perhaps you should look elsewhere. If you'd like to get a sampling of the deeply dark, morbid and haunting world of Southern fundamentalist ol' time religion, purchase now.
This is among the very best audiobooks I've listened to. The performance is haunting and captivating. The text is elevated and infused with meaning by the reader.
Perhaps it is only with the benefit of hindsight that one might begin to comprehend the horror of this novel, published in 1960, with the story taking place in the American South of 1952. Although I am not a scholar of O'Connor, the research I have done indicates that she was a devout Catholic and intended the novel to be a tribute to the power of religious passion in the face of a vapid secularism. But it is a very violent and horrific passion she writes of, full of the destructive forces of fire and water. When I read of the induction of the young Tarwater into the fanatical faith of his "crazy" great-uncle, a faith which eventually leads the 14-year-old to a place where he is capable of the murder of an innocent, I can't help but think of the scores of young Muslims currently being indoctrinated into a similarly twisted version of their faith. The same is true of religious zealots of any tradition who come to believe they are justified in committing the most barbaric atrocities in the service of their faith.
O'Connor posits a stark dichotomy between the fire of religious passion and the emptiness of a secular life. It is a false dichotomy, in my opinion--religious passion can be perverted, and meaning and purpose can be found in a secular life. I firmly stand with the Buddha on this one: the Middle Way is the path of wisdom.
Sometimes the appropriate response to reality is to go insane. Reviewer at BiblioSanctum.
Southern Gothic novels are so haunting and chilling all the same filled with things that could be considered magical realism, and as a Southerner, despite the time gap between many novels in the genre, you can still see how some of these ideas are so pervasive in the south such as the religious fervor that provide the focal point of this love. This is the first novel I’ve ever read by O’Connor. She’s known more for her short stories and wrote only a very few novels in her lifetime. This story follows the struggle of a family who are marked by a legacy, starting with a mad uncle who claimed to be a prophet, leaving behind two nephews who struggle against and for the marks he’s left on their souls, two family members living two extremes–the overzealous and the overdisciplined–as they follow a path of self-fulfilling prophecies left behind by an old man. The title of this books comes from the bible verse Matthew 11:12 (from the Douay-Rheims version of the bible): “And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away.”
A great classic with much wisdom regarding passion, religious fervor, prejudice, racism, and other issues. Well read, also.
I loved this book early, then it bogged down. I did not care for the schoolteacher character, and I am probably not going to read any more O'Connor. This one had enough elements of unique, disturbing storytelling to be worth the time though. Picks back up at the end. Not sure what to say about it still- a bit of an exploration of the prophet "type" in modern society. And a story about manipulation. The characters are all trying to make the world like themselves, and especially the "hero". Never read a book like it, and that is really its best quality. The early chapters are much funnier than the book on the whole, and that tempered the subject in a way I liked. I laughed a lot at the old man, and I think one is supposed to.
"Resist destiny at your peril!"
Francis Tarwater was raised by his preacher great-uncle – destined to be a prophet. He resists his destiny; he does not bury his great-uncle, he goes to live with his uncle, he does not want to baptise his cousin, he does much worse! He is in the thrall of his ancestors, his nature and his destiny. Powerful, sensitive and moving with fantastic Southern States voice.
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