The Man Born to Be King: A Play-Cycle on the Life of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

Author: Dorothy L. Sayers


ISBN: 9780898703078
Pages: 337
Description: With her typical integrity and perspicacity, Dorothy L. Sayers tackles the problem of perspective in looking at the life of Christ — through a series of twelve electrifying radio plays.

Sayers argues in her insightful introduction that people follow the story from a post-Resurrection point of view. As a result, the characters involved are one-dimensional; they are so wicked that they are effectively removed from real life. It’s more comfortable that way; nobody’s actually like that anymore; it wouldn’t happen here. The stateliness of the Authorised Version and the dignity of the church furthers the notion. «The characters are not men and women: they are all «sacred personages», standing about in symbolic attitudes, and self-consciously awaiting the fulfillment of prophecies.» (p. 22)

So she wipes that all out and makes the story real again. She shows us how familiar the motivations behind the characters’ actions are—love, pride, arrogance, simple faith, etc. She makes the story ordinary, and in doing so she reveals just how extraordinary and close to the heart the whole story is.

The disciples are no different than you and me. Her description of Matthew the tax collector is shockingly vulgar—and yet she ends it with «Jesus likes Matthew very much.» Simon Peter, with all his ups and downs, recognizes he is in the presence of something much greater than mere man that first night with the fish. «And I lost my head—it seemed so queer, and I was tired, and I fell on my knees and said: ‘Sir, go away and leave us—I’m a sinful common man, and I can’t bear it.’. And he laughed, and said, ‘Have courage; follow me and I will teach you to catch men.'» (p. 121)

And Judas broke my heart. She made him the most intelligent of the disciples—and yet, he is all brain. «He can see the meaning of sin and repentance and the fearful paradox by which all human good is corrupted as soon as it comes to power. He is as yet only beginning to see it—but presently he will see it plainly, and be the only disciple to grasp the necessity of the crucifixion. And seeing it, as he does, only with his intellect and not with his heart, he will fall into a deeper corruption than any of the others are capable of.» (p. 69)

Her characterization of Judas is eerily reminiscent of Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor and, to a lesser extent, his Ivan Karamazov and Faulkner’s Quentin Compson (two of my favorite characters in literature, and now after reading this book I need to go reevaluate why I sympathize with them and if I am right to do so!). Though the other disciples are not as intelligent as Judas, they instinctively grasp what Judas cannot: that Jesus is more than a man. As they grow, they all understand and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.

Judas desperately wants Jesus to be the Messiah, but he doesn’t have faith that He is. So when it seems like Jesus is doing the wrong thing, Judas would rather have Him killed. It breaks Judas when he sees his own true self in the end, and yet his pride keeps him from repenting, even though he knows Christ will forgive him.

Sayers makes the reader understand that the characters in the story — the greatest tragic irony, she calls it — they don’t know what we know. She manages to make us walk that path with them and see it unravel again anew even though we already know the outcome. It’s electrifying — and it’s real.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
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The Secret History

Author: Donna Tartt


ISBN: 9780141037691
Pages: 629
Description: The original American campus novel. When Richard Papen joins an elite group of clever misfits at his New England college, it seems he can finally become the person he wants to be. But the moral boundaries he will cross with his new friends — and the deaths they are responsible for — will change all of their lives forever. The Secret History recounts the terrible price we pay for mistakes made on the dark journey to adulthood. — The Secret History (Popular Penguins) By Donna Tartt (Paperback)
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