Anselm: a Metamorphosis
Date Published: July 5, 2013
Number of Pages: 225
Print Price: $
eBook Price: $4.99
Eric Behrens – a young, selfish and self-absorbed college professor – is fired for having a sexual relationship with one of his female students. Eric is furious not with himself, but with the young woman and the people who fired him.
“In a sudden rage against my persecutors,” the narrator says, “I raised my fists to the sky and snarled, ‘Damn them all! Damn the whole world! Satan, take them to Hell and take me, too – just make me into someone else! I’d give anything, even my soul, to be somebody else!’
“The surrounding air closed in on me like a smothering plastic film. I gasped and tripped on the next step. Had I been pushed? The fall gave me the sensation of traveling through time and space....”
So begins Florence Weinberg’s page-turning story of redemption. Coming to consciousness after his fall, Eric discovers – gradually – that he is in the body of Anselm, a highly intelligent but overweight, sickly friar.
The story is so well put together and tightly knit that it is difficult to tell much more without giving away key elements. Suffice it to say that this is not a story about finding redemption through entering a saintly monastic community. The monastery in which Eric finds himself is such as Robert Browning wrote of (“G-r-r – there go, my heart’s abhorrence!”) in his famous “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister.” Filled with fallible men who are themselves filled with insecurities and jealousies, the place also contains some good men – but few of them with any reason to like Brother Anselm.
Trapped into this absurd situation, Eric needs to find a way out. In order to do so, he must confront himself, the incredulity of others, and a truly evil opponent.
Weinberg handles her plot and characters with artistry and skill. She convinces us of the reality of the impossible. The reader feels Eric’s sense of being trapped, of being bound into a situation with no evident road of escape. Her characters are three-dimensional and believable. The story is well paced and deals with in-depth issues in a highly readable manner.
This is definitely a Catholic book, in which prayer and Church teaching are taken seriously. A saintly Catholic priest is one of the key figures in Eric’s journey. But the fairly negative picture of the particular monastery portrayed, including one scene of suppressed homosexuality, makes it a book for mature readers. Such readers will find the book hard to put down. Highly recommended.
Original Language: English
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