The Island

My readings have begun slowly but in earnest: I’ve started Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain and Primo Levi’s Moments of Reprieve. Close at hand is my battered copy of Jane Roberts’ The Coming of Seth, though I haven’t opened it yet. I haven’t gone far enough into the the Merton or Levi to comment in any detail, though I will say that Merton’s vivid style grabbed me from the very first paragraph, in which he dives right in to his world:

ON THE LAST DAY OF JANUARY 1915, UNDER THE SIGN OF the Water Bearer, in a year of a great war, and down in the shadow of some French mountains on the borders of Spain, I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God and yet hating Him; born to love Him, living instead in fear and hopeless self-contradictory hungers.

Merton was no stolid old fogey when he wrote his autobiography; he started it at the age of twenty-nine and published it four years later. But thus far he seems rather wise for his years and open-eyed about his own quirks and failings. At one point, inspired by John Donne and planting the seed of his own later book No Man is an Island, he writes of his youthful and curious if sometimes chaotic drives,

 

 

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