Mass for Arras

Overview

"In the spring of 1458, the town of Arras was visited by the disasters of plague and hunger. In the course of a month, nearly a fifth of the citizens lost their lives. "For reasons that remain unclear, the famous Vauderie d'Arras took place in October of 1461. Jews and witches were subjected to cruel persecution; there were trials for supposed heresies, as well as an outbreak of looting and crime. It was three weeks before calm returned...." With this historical tragedy at its core, A Mass For Arras explores the personal and political ...
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Overview

"In the spring of 1458, the town of Arras was visited by the disasters of plague and hunger. In the course of a month, nearly a fifth of the citizens lost their lives. "For reasons that remain unclear, the famous Vauderie d'Arras took place in October of 1461. Jews and witches were subjected to cruel persecution; there were trials for supposed heresies, as well as an outbreak of looting and crime. It was three weeks before calm returned...." With this historical tragedy at its core, A Mass For Arras explores the personal and political consequences of fear, fanaticism, and fascism in the story of Jan, a young member of the intelligentsia. Arrogantly pious and full of revolutionary zeal, Jan wholeheartedly participates in the torments inflicted on the "outsiders" in the name of moral and political righteousness. Yet when faced with escalating violence and, ultimately, his own downfall, he must choose between sincere commitment to the isolated village that adopted him and horror at a society gone mad. A Mass For Arras addresses themes of freedom and responsibility, individualism and conformity, and memory and loss. It is a moving account of a young man's coming-of-age in a time of disease and death, a profound political allegory of life in an emergent totalitarian state, a chilling indictment of government-sponsored repression and societal complicity, and a cautionary tale about the tendency of history to repeat itself, whether in fifteenth-century France, postwar Poland, or somewhere still closer to our own time and place.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A medieval outbreak of witch-burning and anti-Semitism provides the basis for Polish novelist Szczypiorski's ( The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman ) stunning political allegory of the ever-present danger of totalitarianism. In 1461, after losing a fifth of its population to plague and famine, the French town of Arras descends into barbarism. Lechery, looting and book-burning give way to greater violence as the townspeople find scapegoats in Jews and women, slaughtering the former as agents of Satan, the latter as witches. The PEN Club Award-winning author depicts this historical episode through the eyes of the guilt-ridden Jan, a Christian intellectual who participates in the mass hysteria but later escapes the herd mentality after he finds himself suspected of heresy. Jan recoils from his mentor, Father Albert, a proto-fascist demagogue, but when his other role model, David, Bishop of Utrecht, absolves all citizens of their sins, Jan recognizes the horrifying consequences of unquestioning acceptance of authority. This resonant story is a timely meditation on crimes committed in the name of religion and on the misplaced faith the ruled place in their rulers. The translation preserves the pungent medieval atmosphere, evoking a mindset that, the author implies, is very much alive today. (July)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802134028
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/1994
  • Series: Andrze Szczypiorski Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.51 (w) x 8.26 (h) x 0.55 (d)

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