November 23, 2014 | Rome, Italy | Partly Cloudy 11°C
Search the archives:
Fiction
Nonfiction
Italy
Bios & Memoirs
History
Politics
Thrillers
Travel&Food
Sports&Leisure
   

Fiction

Talking to Ourselves

Andrés Neuman's slender but astute novel examines death from three sides.

The Unknown Quantity

Hermann Broch's novel of the life and times of a 1920s mathematician is sadly overlooked.

Can't and Won't

Lydia Davis has a problem: she can't not display her ingenious bravura.

Open City

What's most impressive about Teju Cole's debut is its modulated darkness.

Never Love a Gambler

Irish writer Keith Ridgway is beautifully uncompromising in his pitch-perfect thug chronicles.

Scenes From Village Life

Amos Oz's interlocking stories are parables for a brilliant, haunted nation.

The Third Policeman

Irishman Flan O'Brien managed to introduce Disney to Swift in a comic vision of death.

Leaving the Atocha Station

Ben Lerner's 2011 debut set a fine tone for postmodern irony, but it grows repetitive.

The Underground Man

Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer endures as a detective ahead of his time.

The Voice Imitator: 104 stories

Thomas Bernhard's one-page stories are strange and bitter realms unto themselves.




BOOK REVIEW
Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews
By James Carroll
Mariner Books, 2001. 756 pages

Novelist and former Catholic priest (but not, significantly, former-Catholic) James Carroll begins his search for understand of the Shoah by asking, Why is there a twenty-foot wooden cross in the Auschwitz death camp? The answer takes us back to the days of Jesus, the author's own childhood in Virginia, and the nearly two-thousand years of European history in between. Carroll presents a lengthy critique of "supersessionism," the long-held (and officially disavowed) belief that the Church usurped the chosenness of the Jewish people, and what he calls the "Christianization of the Holocaust." The great power shift took place after Constantine, the first Roman emperor to embrace Christianity, won a decisive battle at the Milvian Bridge against Maxentius (the year was 312 C.E.) Legend — or tradition — says that the embattled Constantine looked up and saw a vision of the cross in the sky, embraced both the vision and the cross, and within a year of his victory had the entirety of the Western empire in the palm of his hand. Whether Constantine ever became a believing Christian is anyone's guess, but he prophetically deduced the rallying power of the cross and married it to military might. This shift changed the course of Western history and spelled disaster for the Jews.

Carroll's book takes a long look at each major step in the rise of the Church, from a tiny prayer group centered around the disciples and friends of Jesus to the Nicene Creed (which "put the crucifixion at the heart of faith and the death of Jesus at the heart of redemption"), Constantine's mother Helena and the cult of holy relics, the rise of anti-Jewish preachers like John Chrysostom, the "golden-mouthed," and culminating in the institutionalization of anti-Judaism. At each historical pivot Carroll suggests an alternative path, a way out which, had it been taken, might have led us down a different road.

The last part of the book is Carroll's call for a Vatican III, when "the Church must therefore preach the anti-Jewish texts of the Gospels — not against the Jews, but against itself." For Carroll Vatican II was a step in the right direction, but until the Church is able to confront its own history — including its own founding scriptures — self-critically, it will remain essentially a pawn of its own historical power.

Reviewed by Marc Alan Di Martino
Everything you need to know about visiting or moving to Tuscany, Italy.