Tag Archives: history

Review: Callista by John Henry Newman

8 Apr

4635826This is one of the books that I would re-read any time of the year. Set in Proconsular Africa, it tells the story of third century Christians. It revolves around three characters: Callista, a Greek decorator of sculptures, Agellius, a farmer and a Christian and Caecilius, the persecuted bishop of Carthage. It tells of the clash between paganism and Christianity.

Callista, unsatisfied with an empty life and with the pagan culture surrounding her, seeks for the truth. She is attracted by the beauty of Christianity, but considers it too good to be real. Agellius tries to woo her, but Callista sees his real motive: he takes advantage of her curiosity of his religion to gain her for himself rather than for his God. Juba, Agellius’ brother is scornful of his Christianity and together with his uncle, tries to make Agellius “come back to his senses”.

A chain of events then follows: the plague of locusts that leave the city of Sicca devastated, the possession of Juba, the arrest of Callista on the charge of Christianity and the implementation of the edict of the Emperor Decius regarding the Christians: christianos ad leones (Christians to the lions). Will Callista be set free or will she be killed, even though she is not a Christian? Will she convert before it is too late, and if so, who will help her? All this drama waits for the reader.

The review in Goodreads says: Far from being tied to the past, Newman’s novel challenges the assumptions of the modern reader in unexpected ways. More perhaps than his major works, Newman’s fiction reveals the contours of his imaginative life, the range and power of his prose writing, and the wider literary culture which he so often subordinated to his higher vocation or the demands of controversy. Callista’s picture of the Christian venture of faith, so close to Newman’s own, and the setting in his beloved church of the Fathers in Roman North Africa, make it one of his most characteristic works. Callista is an important text for understanding Newman’s lifelong vocation as a Christian apologist, and the importance for him of the early Church.

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Head over heels…

6 Mar

I am head over heels…

In love.

With a count.

Phew!

Let me tell the story from the beginning:

This is the context: France in the 19th century, after the fall of Napoleon. The aristocracy still exists.

My count is one of them though he has bought his title in Tuscany after purchasing that famous isle in the mare nostrum: the isle of Monte Cristo. He is a friend of smugglers, pirates and the Italian banditti. No one really knows where he comes from, though they guess –wrongly- from his accent that he is a native ofMalta.

He not only courts the society of the low people, he is also to be found among the leading families in Parisof the time. He does favours to them. Almost everyone is indebted to him for one thing or another. He is the gentilhomme. His manners are spectacular. The ladies are flattered, though of course he does not flatter them.

Then there is the issue of his wealth. Nothing is too expensive. He gives tips to the stewards and the valets and all others in the form of golden crowns. He is in Rome today,Naples tomorrow,Alexandria at the end of the week, and keeps on. He has a multitude of servants at his beck and call. No one has ever heard of the family with the name he bears. He leaves everyone guessing… and enchanted.

What is he up to? He sure has a mission. The smugglers and the pirates know him as a wealthy English man who travels for pleasure. They have seen his Genoese yatch, and acknowledge its superiority in navigation. The aristocracy is somewhat cynical, though they own that he is a man who seems to come from the other world. Some are enchanted, like Albert Morcèrf, others are more prudent, like his mother and Franz D’Espiny. I don’t know of which band I am. Yet.

***

I am reading The Count of Monte Cristo. The drama hastens with each chapter and the intentions are laid bare at the turn of every page. The heart beats a little faster, at the sight of so many diamonds and bank notes. The vendetta is about to be accomplished. The plans are perfect. But there is something that prevents me from cheering all this drama. Something deep inside . It’s far too deep to tell. Maybe when I finish reading I will know.

Shhh!!! I don’t want to know how it all ends!

(To see what I thought after reading the book, click here.