Fathers and Crows

Overview

With the same panoramic vision and mythic sensibility he brought to The Ice-Shirt, William T. Vollmann continues his hugely original fictional history of the clash of Indians and Europeans in the New World. It is 400 years ago, and the 'Black Gowns,' French Jesuit priests, are beginning their descent into the forests of Canada, eagerly seeking to convert the Huron—and courting martyrdom at the hands of the rival Iroquois. Through the eyes of these vastly different peoples—particularly through those of the grimly ...

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Overview

With the same panoramic vision and mythic sensibility he brought to The Ice-Shirt, William T. Vollmann continues his hugely original fictional history of the clash of Indians and Europeans in the New World. It is 400 years ago, and the 'Black Gowns,' French Jesuit priests, are beginning their descent into the forests of Canada, eagerly seeking to convert the Huron—and courting martyrdom at the hands of the rival Iroquois. Through the eyes of these vastly different peoples—particularly through those of the grimly pious Father Jean de Brebeuf and the Indian prophetess Born Underwater—Vollmann reconstructs America's past as tragedy, nightmare, and bloody spectacle. In the process, he does nothing less than reinvent the American novel as well.

With the same panoramic vision and mythic sensibility he brought to The Ice-Shirt, Vollmann continues his hugely original fictional history of the clash of Indians and Europeans in the New World. Through the eyes of vastly different peoples, Vollmann reconstructs America's tragic past.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ready or not, we have an Ovid in our midst. In the second installment in his Seven Dream series, the 32-year-old Vollmann shows every sign of being equal to his self-appointed task of creating a ``symbolic history'' of the European settlement of North America. Following upon The Ice-Shirt (1990), which told of Leif Eriksson's Eric the Red's ``discovery'' of what is now British Columbia around A.D. 1000, Fathers and Crows chronicles the exploits of the French and the missionary Jesuits in Canada from the 16th to the 18th centuries. For all the book's historical trappings (six glossaries, a detailed chronology and 50 pages of source notes), it is less an historical novel than a novel about history. ``History is like a string that the cat has swallowed,'' says the cynical narrator, William the Blind: ``drawing events and eventsstet `events and events' from the poor creature's throat, one is surprised at how much must be disgorged.'' Indeed, Vollmann includes enough horrific descriptions of colonial North America--the impossible winters, the outbreaks of smallpox and scurvy (``Flesh blossomed in men's mouths like fungus''), the crude and heartless conflicts--to make the books of Francis Parkman seem like unctuous travel guides. Vollmann negotiates politically treacherous issues of dominant culture vs. native tradition with a skeptic's aplomb; swayed neither by notions of European individualism nor by those of Indian community, he has created an open text that invites all comers. Powerful as his performance is, however, the novel's breadth of time and incident and detail does not clarify so much as overwhelm. The character of History remains as irrational as the black-tentacled Indian force at the bottom of the Fleuve St.-Laurent. Still, Vollmann's ambition is without parallel, and clearly he has set in place another solid block of his audacious project. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews
Idiosyncratic, inspired, and convoluted as ever, Vollmann offers the second installment in his seven-part series (Seven Dreams), moving from the Vikings and Vinland of The Ice-Shirt (1990) to the French and their impact on native populations in and around Quebec in the first half of the 17th century. Taking the Iroquois Saint Catherine Tekakwitha (1656-80) as a point of departure, Vollmann launches himself into a turbulent mytho-historico-geographical "Stream of Time"—which in this case swirls and eddies first around the adventures of Samuel de Champlain, his comings and goings in New France, and his indefatigable efforts to map the unfamiliar territory for his own edification as much as for posterity. Always suspicious of the "savages," meticulous in protecting the property of those chartered to reap the beaver harvest and other riches of the region while eager to gain his share, courageous and feared to the end, Champlain emerges as a man frequently at odds with circumstance but oddly worthy of his legendary status. The man of action gives way to men of the cloth in the latter half, as the Jesuits outmaneuver all opposition on a zealous mission of God to convert the Huron Nation or die trying. Advancing beyond the tentative fringes of French settlement along the St. Lawrence River, they seem to be the black-gowned harbingers of death when one plague after another decimates Huron villages. Happy to baptize the dead and the dying, they are resisted by shamans who have no power to halt either them or their diseases, but the ferocious Iroquois, traditional Huron enemies, are on hand to deliver the coup de grace. Jesuit martyrs are among the victims as the Huron cease to exist as apeople but—like Vollmann's restless dream-vision of North America—they are unstoppable. Vast and vivid as Canada itself, mingling the cold, deep waters of history with the present, and quixotic and ironic to its core. An immensely rewarding saga.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140167177
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/28/1993
  • Series: Seven Dreams Series , #2
  • Pages: 1008
  • Sales rank: 850,277
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 8.36 (h) x 1.83 (d)

Meet the Author

William T. Vollmann

William T. Vollmann is the author of eight novels, three collections of stories, a memoir, and Rising Up and Rising Down, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction. Vollman's writing has been published in The New Yorker, Harper's, The Paris Review, Esquire, Conjunctions, Granta, and many other magazines. He lives in California.

Biography

Fearless, ambitious, and wildly original, William T. Vollmann has been lionized as one of the most significant and influential voices in contemporary postmodernist literature. His dauntingly voluminous books, a hodgepodge of fiction and journalism, are marked by bold, often beautiful language. They also spring from personal experience: Volmann is famous for total immersion in his subjects. His research has taken him to the ends of the earth – to the North Pole, to war zones around the globe, and (perhaps most famously) to San Francisco's notorious Tenderloin district to gain a better understanding of its notorious denizens..

Vollmann roared onto the literary scene in 1987 with You Bright and Risen Angels, a bold and quirky debut novel that chronicled in allegorical fashion the bitter battle between insects and the inventors of electricity. From that point on, his books became less surreal and more gritty. In 1992, he wrote his first "official" work of nonfiction, An Afghanistan Picture Show , an impressionistic chronicle of his experiences among the Afghan rebels in the early 1980s. Since then, the prolific author has produced an unstoppable juggernaut of prose, most notably installments in his towering fictional sequence Seven Dreams: A Book of North American Landscapes and a labyrinthine seven-volume treatise on violence called Rising Up, Rising Down. Published by the iconoclastic publishing house McSweeney's in 2003, this magnum opus was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Nonfiction.

In 1999, The New Yorker named Vollmann one of the 20 best American writers under the age of 40. In 2005, he was awarded the National Book Award for Fiction for Europe Central, a 750-page series of linked stories set in Germany and Russia during World War II. His journalism continues to appear in such magazines as Esquire, Spin, Gear, Outside, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, and The New Yorker. In addition, he has founded the Co-Tangent Press as a vehicle for publishing his own limited edition art books.

Good To Know

Vollmann wrote his first novel, You Bright and Risen Angels, while working as a computer programmer.

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    1. Also Known As:
      m the Blind, Captain Subzero
    2. Hometown:
      Sacramento, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 28, 1959
    2. Place of Birth:
      Santa Monica, California
    1. Education:
      Attended Deep Springs College and Cornell University

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