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Gripped by the tale of a Messiah whose blood we drink and body we eat, the genre-defying author Emmanuel Carrère revisits the story of the early Church in his latest work. With an idiosyncratic and at times iconoclastic take on the charms and foibles of the Church fathers, Carrère ferries listeners through his "doors" into the biblical narrative. Once inside, he follows the ragtag group of early Christians through the tumultuous days of the faith's founding.
Shouldering biblical scholarship like a camcorder, Carrère recreates the climate of the New Testament with the acumen of a seasoned storyteller, intertwining his own reckoning of the central tenets of the faith with the lives of the first Christians. Carrère puts himself in the shoes of Saint Paul and above all Saint Luke, charting Luke's encounter with the marginal Jewish sect that eventually became Christianity and retracing his investigation of its founder, an obscure religious freak who died under notorious circumstances.
Boldly blending scholarship with speculation, memoir with journalistic muckraking, Carrère sets out on a headlong chase through the latter part of the Bible, drawing out protagonists who believed they were caught up in the most important events of their time.
An expansive and clever meditation on belief, The Kingdom chronicles the advent of a religion and the ongoing quest to find a place within it.
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By Mark on 12-31-17
The Gospel of Emmanuel
A brilliant foray back to and through the early days of the Christian Church (before it was known as such) by way of the singular shortcut of meandering through Carrere's bottomless self-absorption.
For me it was worth the sometimes arduous and repetitive trip. There's an heroic honesty in the self-aggrandizing way Carrere puts every single card (and seemingly every stray thought he's had) on the table, laying bare his methods, assumptions and biases.
Less but not entirely enlightening is the way he puts every other stakeholders' cards on the table for them. His scholarship and thoughtfulness is impressive. He places all the dots laid down on this table 2,000 years in the making, and connects many of them. What emerges most clearly is a portrait of the author's inner life. It is at once astonishing in its arrogance yet paradoxically appealingly humble. Maybe that is ultimately the only way a study, deconstruction or fictionalisation of this enduring mystery. I can't entirely reject the idea that had Carrere devoted a similar amount of years of thought, study and debate on any other subject, like the earliest known history of the physical universe or the evolutionary deadend of the dinosaurs, from premordial seas to their date with a meteorite, Carrere himself would emerge most clearly and prominently.
Carrere is omnipresent throughout this long book, even when he deigns to put words and thoughts and emotions into ancient men and women. He repeats and other times contradicts himself often. He sometimes, whether consciously or not, catches himself and does not extracate or reconcile his own conflicts. He often gets things dead wrong where he thinks he deduces the inner motivations beneath others' professes beliefs, and frequently quotes similar misguided passages from favored critics, theologists or philosophers, as if he's propping up the shakiest limbs he snakes out onto. Says who? when it comes to any person's core beliefs? Not Nietzsche, not Carrere.
Still, he fully and generously shares his proditious knowledge and intelligence and I learned much along the way. For all his breadth of learning, he knows himself best and in his way thus becomes a polestar around which a reader can take an entirely new and likely novel trip through this most familiar territory. Makes the time spent worth it and good and lively company all the way.
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