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He was, in fact, my professor of theology and later became my confessor. He was also one of the censors whose penance was to read the pages that flowed with such regularity from my typewriter in those innocent days. Among other things that happened during this year, I had to serve as the secretary of the Abbot General of the Order when he came to Gethsemani to make an official Visitation. Then in July some monks were sent to Utah to make a foundation.

During the year I had the job of assistant cantor, which sounds like much more than it is, and during the summer I read books aloud in the dining-room of the guest house to the visitors who came on weekend retreats to the monastery. It is five years since I came to the monastery. It is the same kind of day, overcast. But now it is raining. I wish I knew how to begin to be grateful to God and to Our Lady for bringing me here.

There was a long interval after afternoon work. It was good to be in the big quiet church. The church is dark, these winter afternoons. The years since I entered Gethsemani have gone by like five weeks. It was a fine bright day, not very cold, with little clouds very high up in a clear sky. I had sent her the manuscript of The Seven Storey Mountain.

Her letter about it was very good and she is quite sure it will find a publisher. Anyway, my idea — and hers also — is to turn it over to Robert Giroux at Harcourt, Brace. At work — writing — I am doing a little better. I mean, I am less tied up in it, more peaceful and more detached. Taking one thing at a time and going over it slowly and patiently if I can ever be said to do anything slowly and patiently and forgetting about the other jobs that have to take their turn. For instance, Jay Laughlin wants two anthologies for New Directions press. I wonder if I will ever be able to do them.

If God wills. Meanwhile, for myself, I have only one desire and that is the desire for solitude — to disappear into God, to be submerged in His peace, to be lost in the secret of His Face. This afternoon we were working on the road from the old horsebarn to the lower bottom, filling in a deep gully that had washed out all along the road, down to the bottom of the hill. It was another bright, warm day. The new brick horsebarn, under the water tower, where the vineyard used to be, is almost finished. They are clearing ground already for the new garden house. There were some fat turkeys in the pen.

Father Joel has already started to put up the crib, in the church, and that means Christmas is here. The novena begins tomorrow. Tonight at Vespers we sang the Conditor alme siderum which has not been heard for a week on account of Our Lady's octave. But what an octave! I keep thinking of the words, Posuit immaculatam viam meam, and of the Alleluia of the Mass Tota pulchra es.

That is what Duns Scotus is singing in heaven. Lady, Queen of Heaven, pray me into solitude and silence and unity, that all my ways may be immaculate in God. Let me be content with whatever darkness surrounds me, finding Him always by me, in His mercy. Let me keep silence in this world, except in so far as God wills and in the way He wills it.

Let me at least disappear into the writing I do. It should mean nothing special to me, nor harm my recollection. The work could be a prayer; its results should not concern me. Old Father Alberic preached the sermon in Chapter. He looks very ill. He said it was his last sermon and I wouldn't be at all surprised. It was all about mutual encouragement.

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I think he must have been very lonely in the infirmary, all these years. He is a kind, and simple and solitary little person. When he appears in the scriptorium, he comes slowly along the cloister like a wraith, holding on to the walls, just to be where people are. The other day he showed me a holy picture. I wish I could have done something more for him than just look at the holy picture and smile, and I was ashamed of the thought that my smile perhaps showed the embarrassment I felt over two facts — first that artistically it was a frightful picture and second that my looking at it was against the rule of the house.

Dom Frederic interprets the rule that two monks may not read together out of the same book, in the strict sense that no monk may show another monk anything any writing, any picture anything one would want to look at. This time I think charity came first. One of the things I liked about his sermon was the ingenuousness and simplicity with which Father Alberic talked about "devotion to our Superiors.

It was in him and part of him and his whole wasted little person proclaimed the meaning of what he said. One day when I was in Father Abbot's room complaining that I was not the contemplative or the solitary that I wanted to be, that I made no progress in this house and that I ought to be either a Carthusian or an outright hermit, Dom Frederic casually remarked that there were some men in the house who could come to him and tell him their troubles and go out quite satisfied with whatever answer he gave them.

From a certain point of view the solution sounds utterly horrible. And yet it is also quite wonderful. It implies a faith and simplicity without which it is hard to live the contemplative life. We really have to believe in our Superiors. We cannot simply judge them by human standards, taking the things they tell us as opinions that are to be weighed in the balance with our own. I do not know if I shall ever be able to do it. But I need something of that and I hope Jesus will give me the grace for it.

The four big feast days were wonderful.

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Plenty of time to pray and no obligation to do anything else. Yesterday in the confessional, Dom Gildas said a lot of good things and it would be well not to forget them. So I write them down. First he said I ought to be very grateful for my attraction to prayer.

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I ought to cultivate it and seek recollection and remain quiet before the Tabernacle. To teach contemplation, and especially to let people know, in what I write, that the contemplative life is quite easy and accessible and does not require extraordinary or strange efforts, just the normal generosity required to strive for sanctity.

He said I must remember that my desire to become a Carthusian is full of self-love and only some very extraordinary upheaval in my whole life would justify my leaving here for a Charterhouse. To profit by all the crosses Jesus sends me, especially the ones that come in connection with work — delays, accidents to manuscripts, adverse criticism, insults, and so on. To realize what pleasure it gives Jesus when He sees that we recognize the action of His love, doing good to us in all these trials.

To read Carthusian writers and make use of anything of value that they say and if they make me want to pack up and run off to the Charterhouse I should treat that desire like any other movement of disordered appetite and not get upset about it. The first thought that came to my mind was that the manuscript of The Seven Storey Mountain had been lost.

Naomi Burton gave it to Harcourt, Brace only a week ago. I knew quite well that publishers always make you wait at least two months before saying anything about your manuscripts. I waited until after dinner and opened the telegram. It was from Bob Giroux. And it said: "Manuscript accepted. Happy New Year. This morning Father Abbot announced in Chapter that I had made my petition to be admitted to solemn vows. This was in order that the community might be able to vote on me. I have been made assistant cantor, which meant moving to the other side of the choir.

For some reason that side seems gloomy — perhaps because all the days have been dark days so far. Father Abbot is starting off for Utah to look for land for a new foundation. This morning we had the Chapter of Faults and it was extremely peaceful and charitable.

Nouveautés en langues et littératures

The whole monastery is as happy as Christmas morning. It is the record of their journey around France in the early eighteenth century, collecting material for the Gallia Christiana, in the archives of the old monasteries. And there were hundreds of them. Monastic life was, on the whole, rich and vital even in that dead age. There were many scattered reform movements going on, and they were effective enough, within their limitations. But few of them seem to have extended very far and almost all of them have been completely forgotten.

Monasticism was a big tree full of dead wood. It needed to be pruned. It was, in fact, all but cut down. Many rich and beautiful customs were lost with the monasteries that the French revolution swept out of existence. Much art too, I suppose.

In the Middle Ages

But when it was all over I think the monasteries that survived came out richer in the love of God. One of them is very practical: I didn't feel like I knew any one place well enough to stick a flag in the ground and say, "This is where Jonas is from. You have to get it exactly, absolutely right, and I didn't feel like I knew any plausible place well enough to be able to get it that right.

The second, and probably more important, reason for leaving it vague is the fact that this is a story that could have happened in lots of different places, and so not specifically saying where it happens allows it to have happened in many places. It allows for a certain universality.

Do you agree with this idea? I think that what Ballard was talking about specifically was the way so much of public life has been taken over by advertising and mass media which try, purely for economic purposes, to create their own narrative reality, their own fiction, and then get us to buy into it. We are therefore surrounded constantly by these invented stories, all of which have been created with ulterior motives.

Within that narrow frame of reference, I probably agree, although I'm not sure having just now read the interview from which that quote was taken that he meant it to be taken literally. But maybe he did. I think the writer's role, broadly defined, is to tell good stories, to create for the reader an experience through which the reader can pass and emerge transformed in some way.

Because human beings are storytellers by nature, I doubt that role will disappear. I think or at least hope that Ballard would have agreed with that. You never describe directly the war. How would you explain this choice? This gets to the difficulty of pinning down external reality. Everyone filters reality through his or her own lens, and this is particularly true of traumatic or difficult events. Police detectives in America say that if you interview twenty witnesses to the same murder, you will get twenty different stories.

The book's alternating points of view was an effort to reflect that. Objective reality shifts and bends depending upon how it is approached, and who is approaching it. No two people ever have exactly the same remembrance of the same event, and they tend to have their own justifications for the things they do. Was it important for you to show each side of one war?

It was absolutely vital to me that the main point of view was not American.

We know the American point of view. We can say many things about the wars America has fought over the past ten years, but one thing we cannot say is that we somehow lack an American perspective on them. One thing that sticks out at me about the list of fiction you mentioned previously is that each of those books approaches the wars from an American point of view.

These are wars that have been fought mostly in countries other than America, and ninety nine percent of their casualties have been non-American. Actually that's one of the things that is so chilling to me: the fact that we have all of these soldiers from Western countries who have been killed and wounded, and then realize that they don't account for more than a percent or two of the total number of victims of these wars.

So I felt I had to tell it from a predominantly non-American perspective. But it is also a fundamentally American story, the losses and long-term consequences of which will echo through the American landscape for years to come. So not incorporating the American perspective would be an injustice as well. I was trying to tell a story that honored all sides. A charity sends Jonas to live with the Martins, an evangelical family in Pennsylvania. Many passages of the book — showing the reactions of the Americans — are very critical. I don't think it's exclusively critical.

There are many Americans in the book who try to help Jonas, and there a some who are pretty good about it. But they can't possibly know what he has been through, so they try to help in whatever way they can. I suppose you could say they act without understanding. And I suppose you could make the case that this also tells part of the larger story.

Your novel is very fragmented. Was it a way to tell how difficult it is to have one point of view, or one truth about something so complex? Is it also why you don't tell the story linearly? Once again this is something that comes from both a practical and an aesthetic consideration. Trauma is a fragmenting experience, and those who experience it often divide their lives, their consciousnesses, their psyches into different compartments as a way of dealing with it. It's a coping mechanism, a way of walling off the source of the trauma so it's easier to handle, or easier to ignore.

Telling the story that way felt like an effective way of illustrating that. From a practical standpoint, I'm pretty good at writing beginnings, and pretty good at writing endings, but I'm really not very good at writing middles. So I wrote a whole book of little sections of beginnings and endings, and this had the effect of creating a fragmented narrative structure. I am only half joking about this. Would you define yourself as a politically engaged writer? I don't consider myself a particularly political person.

I'm not involved in partisan politics, either in Europe or in America. And I think if you are writing fiction with the explicit purpose of furthering some political agenda, your fiction is probably not going to be very good. But I do think that if you are as honest in your writing as you can possibly be, it can sometimes have the effect of making a point that might be considered political.

You also analyze the way the USA wants to understand and categorize everything. Is fiction the way to escape from this cold rationality? It is a culture that is extraordinarily good at categorizing people. In the context of public discourse, these labels are applied and we are then expected to stop thinking. We are led to believe that if we can categorize someone, we immediately know the core of that person's existence. The category becomes a kind of shorthand, and this process is its own form of dehumanization. To tell this story, it seemed important to try to humanize all sides of it, to break through those labels, and using multiple points of view seemed to be the best way to do that.

Each story is different. But all of them share a need to be told, to be heard, and Rose knows how to hear them. She knows that these gaps are important, that they mean something. Would you agree with the idea this sentences define the entire project and art of writing of The Book of Jonas? The fundamental importance of the reader—or, in this case, Rose, the listener—to the story, I think defines the project of any piece of writing.

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When you write something, you are literally using the reader's mind as your canvas. The gaps in the story, what is left unsaid, allows the reader to fill in from his or her own experience. To a greater extent than any of the visual or performing arts, writing depends on its audience. A film is still a film if the theater is empty, and a painting can be displayed in an empty gallery.