Home | Reviews | Blog | Daily | Glossary | Orrin's Stuff | Email

Black Robe ()

The Image Top 100 Books of the Century

When Brian Moore died on January 11th of this year (1999), we lost one of our best serious novelists.  Without succumbing to gargantuism (his novels are generally under 300 pages) or obscurantism (the stories are pretty straightforward & the linguistic pyrotechnics are minimal) or fishing for a best seller, he managed to produce novels that are both thrilling and thought provoking.

In Black Robe he describes a journey by two Jesuits in 17th century Canada on a mission to relieve a dying priest.  With considerable empathy and insight, he portrays Father Paul Laforgue's near-suicidal longing to be a martyr for Christ; the sexual torment of young Daniel Davost, Laforgue's protege who has been seduced by a native girl; and the mixture of superstitious fear and hatred that they provoke in the native tribes.  The action that ensues when these two white men come in contact with the natives, will test all of their beliefs.  As Moore describes it in his Introduction:

    the Indian belief in a world of night and in the power of dreams clashed with the Jesuits'
    preachments of Christianity and a paradise after death.  This novel is an attempt to show that each
    of these beliefs inspired in the other fear, hostility, and despair, which later would result in the
    destruction and abandonment of the Jesuit missions, and the conquest of the Huron people by
    the Iroquois, their deadly enemy.

Moore states his own case a little too pessimistically, the clash of cultures that he presents is indeed brutal, but it is not futile.  In the novel's closing scene, Laforgue who has despaired of his own worthiness to be a martyr, despite withstanding torture, abandonment by Davost and the murder of the priest they came to replace, agrees to baptize native villagers who are being ravaged by the plague; not necessarily because he believes that their conversion is genuine or that it will save them, but simply because he loves them and because, finally, he believes that God loves them all.  Despite the brutality and destructiveness of these initial encounters between the Blackrobes and the Indians, it is this ethos of Christian love that eventually won the day and brought civilization to Canada and its native population.  I know it's not a popular thing to say, but...that's a good thing.


Grade: (B+)


Brian Moore Links:

    -APPRECIATION: Belfast’s best-kept secret: John Self welcomes the reissue of three works by Brian Moore, one of Northern Ireland’s few novelists who can stand toe-to-toe with the contemporary greats (John Self, September 2021, The Critic)
    -ESSAY: Brian Moore’s hotels: Time to revisit this neglected author in his centenary year: This Irish writer excelled at portrayals of women dissatisfied with marriage and domestic life (Sinéad Moynihan, 1/12/21, Irish Times)

Book-related and General Links:
    -ESSAY:  Going Home (Brian Moore, NY Times)
    -ESSAY : Bloody Ulster : An Irishman's Lament : "England must rule  us, directly, totally," writes a former Ulsterman, who sees firm rule  from London as the only hope for peace in tortured Northern Ireland.  (Brian Moore, The Atlantic Monthly | September 1970)
    -REVIEW: of The Captain and The Enemy by Graham Greene,  FATHER LOST ME IN A BACKGAMMON GAME (Brian Moore, NY Times Book Review)
(Brian Moore, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of FLANNERY O'CONNOR Collected Works, MAKING A CASE FOR DISTORTION  (Brian Moore, NY Times Book Review)
    -Interview (from the Australian)
    -ARCHIVES : "Brian Moore" (NY Review of Books)
    -Brian Moore--Biography (Local Ireland)
    -Brian Moore (1921- )(Well Known Canadians)
    -Canadian Literary Archives - Brian Moore (Special Collections, University of Calgary Library)
    -EducETH: Brian Moore
    -FILMOGRAPHY : Brian Moore (imdb)
    -OBIT : Brian Moore, Prolific Novelist on Diverse Themes, Dies at 77 (DINITIA SMITH, NY Times)
    -OBITUARY : Author Brian Moore defied definition : The Irish-born novelist spent his last 30 years living in California but probably came closest to finding a sense of home in Canada. (Tuesday, January 12, 1999, VAL ROSS, Globe and Mail)
    -MEMORIAL : Brian Moore: A writer who never failed to surprise his readers (Robert Fulford, Globe and Mail, January 12, 1999)
    -PROFILE : An Irishman in Malibu  (Tom Christie, LA Weekly)
    -OBITUARY : Brian Moore, 1921-1999 (Tom Christie, LA Weekly)
    -ESSAY : Brian Moore, 1921-99: Cool prose craftsman (Socialism Today)
    -FEATURED AUTHOR : Brian Moore (Read Ireland)
    -Brian Moore: Travels of a Literary Infidel (John Blades, Publishers Weekly)
    -BOOK GROUP GUIDE : The Magician's Wife by Brian Moore
    -READER'S GUIDE : Lies of Silence (College Net)
    -Review of Black Robe (NY Times, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt)
    -REVIEW : of Black Robe by Brian Moore (NY Times, James Carroll)
    -REVIEW : of Lies of Silence by Brian Moore (Francine Prose, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of The Magician's Wife by Brian Moore  (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of The Magician's Wife by Brian Moore  (Thomas Mallon, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of The Magician's Wife by Brian Moore (Brian St. Pierre, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : Gabriele Annan: The Mahdi's Bullet, NY Review of Books
               The Magician's Wife by Brian Moore
    -REVIEW: THE STATEMENT By Brian Moore (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: THE STATEMENT By Brian Moore (Eugen Weber, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: Catholics and Fascists  ( J. Bottum, Catholic Crisis Online)
    -REVIEW: of The Statement by Brian Moore (John Wilson, First Things)
    -REVIEW: Bygones?  The Statement   by Brian Moore (Roger Kaplan, Commentary)
    -REVIEW: (Mystery Guide)
    -REVIEW: Moral fable makes a 'Statement' about war crimes and 'justice' (David Walton, Detroit News)
    -REVIEW : of The Statement (Book Page)
    -REVIEW : John Gross: Marked Man, NY Review of Books
               The Statement by Brian Moore
               Memory, the Holocaust, and French Justice  edited by  Richard J. Golsan
    -REVIEW: of Cold Heaven, A SPIRITUAL QUID PRO QUO (Frances Taliaferro, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE TEMPTATION OF EILEEN HUGHES By Brian Moore (1981)(Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of THE COLOR OF BLOOD By Brian Moore (Clancy Sigal, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of THE COLOR OF BLOOD. By Brian Moore (John Gross, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of No Other Life By Brian Moore (1993)(Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of NO OTHER LIFE By Brian Moore (Henry Louis Gates Jr., NY Times Book Review)
    -BOOK LIST : 1990 Booker Prize Nominees : Lies of Silence
    -BOOK LIST : MODERN NOVELS; THE 99 BEST (Anthony Burgess, NY Times, 1984)