Walter Miller, Jr.: Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman

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Walter Miller, Jr. Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman
  • Название:
    Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    Bantam Books
  • Жанр:
    Фантастика и фэнтези / на английском языке
  • Год:
    1997
  • Город:
    New York
  • Язык:
    Английский
  • ISBN:
    0-553-10704-6
  • Рейтинг книги:
    4 / 5
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Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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It has been nearly forty years since Walter M. Miller, Jr., shocked and dazzled readers with his provocative bestseller and enduring classic, Now, in one of the most eagerly awaited publishing events of our time, here is Miller’s masterpiece, an epic intellectual and emotional tour de force that will stand beside 1984, and In a world struggling to transcend a terrifying legacy of darkness—a world torn between love and violence, good and evil—one man undertakes an odyssey of adventure and discovery that promises to alter not only his destiny but the destiny of humankind as well…. Millennia have passed since the Flame Deluge, yet society remains fragmented, pockets of civilization besieged by barbarians. The Church is in turmoil, the exiled papacy struggling to survive in its Rocky Mountain refuge. To the south, tyranny is on the march. Imperial Texark troops, bent on conquest, are headed north into the lands of the nomads, spreading terror in their wake. Meanwhile, isolated in Leibowitz Abbey, Brother Blacktooth St. George suffers a crisis of faith. Torn between his vows and his Nomad upbringing, between the Holy Virgin and visions of the Wild Horse Woman of his people, he stands at the brink of disgrace and expulsion from his order. But he is offered an escape—of sorts: a new assignment as a translator for Cardinal Brownpony, which will take him to the contentious election of a new pope and then on a pilgrimage to the city of New Rome. Journeying across a continent divided by nature, politics, and war, Blacktooth is drawn into Brownpony’s intrigues and conspiracies. He bears witness to rebellion, assassination, and human sacrifice. And he is introduced to the sins that monastery life has long held at bay. This introduction comes in the form of Ædrea, a beautiful but forbidden “genny” living among the deformed and mutant castouts in Texark’s most hostile terrain. As Blacktooth encounters her again and again on his travels—in the flesh, in rumors of miraculous deeds, and in the delirium of fever—he begins to wonder if Ædrea is a she-devil, the Holy Mother, or the Wild Horse Woman herself. Picaresque and passionate, magnificent, dark, and compellingly real, is a brutal, brilliant, thrilling tale of mystery, mysticism, and divine madness, a classic that will long endure in every reader’s memory.

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Walter M. Miller, Jr.

SAINT LEIBOWITZ AND THE WILD HORSE WOMAN

For David, and all those

who sailed against the Apocalypse


The estate of Walter M. Miller, Jr.,

would like to thank Terry Bisson

for his editorial contribution to

Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman.

NOTE

The fictional Rule of Saint Leibowitz is an adaptation of the Benedictine Rule to life in the Southwest Desert after the collapse of the Great Civilization, but it is true that the fictional monks of Leibowitz Abbey do not always conform to it as perfectly as did the monks of St. Benedict.

Permission was kindly given by the Liturgical Press, Collegeville Minnesota, to quote from the Leonard J. Doyle translation of St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, Copyright 1948, by The Order of Saint Benedict.

CHAPTER 1

“Listen, my son, to your master’s precepts,

and incline the ear of your heart.”—The

First Sentence of The Rule.

“Whoever you are, therefore, who are

hastening to the heavenly homeland, fulfill

with the help of Christ this minimum Rule

which we have written for beginners; and

then at length under God’s protection, you

will attain to the loftier heights of doctrine

and virtue which we have mentioned

above.”—The Last Sentence of The Rule.

Between these two lines, written about

529 a.d. in a dark age, is Saint Benedict’s

homely prescription for a way of monastic

life that has prevailed even in the shadow of

the Magna Civitas.


AS HE SAT SHIVERING IN THE GLOOMY CORRIDOR outside the meeting hall and waited for the tribunal to finish deciding his punishment, Brother Blacktooth St. George, A.O.L., remembered the time his boss uncle had taken him to see the Wild Horse Woman at a Plains Nomad tribal ceremony, and how Deacon (“Half-Breed”) Brownpony, who was on a diplomatic mission to the Plains at the time, had tried to exorcise her priests with holy water and drive her spirit from the council lodge. There had been a riot, and an assault on the person of the young deacon, not yet a cardinal, whose shaman (“witch doctor”) attackers had been summarily executed by the newly baptized Nomad sharf. Blacktooth was seven at the time, and had not seen the Woman then, but his boss uncle insisted that she had been there in the smoke of the fire until the trouble began. He believed his boss uncle, as he might not have believed his father. Later, before he ran away from home, he had seen her twice, once by day riding bareback and naked along the crest of a ridge, and once by dim firelight when she prowled as the Night Hag through the darkness outside the settlement enclosure. He definitely remembered seeing her. Now his ties to Christianity de­manded that he remember them as childish hallucinations. One of the less plausible accusations against him was that he had confused her with the Mother of God.

The tribunal was taking its time. There was no clock in the hall, but at least an hour had passed since Blacktooth had testified in his own defense and been excused from the meeting hall, which was really the abbey’s refectory. He tried not to speculate about the cause of the delay, or the meaning of the fact that pure chance had cast that dea­con, now Cardinal (“Red Deacon”) Brownpony, in the role of amicus curiae at the hearing. The cardinal had come to the monastery from the Holy See only a week ago, and it was well known, but most cer­tainly not announced, that his purpose in being here was to discuss with the Abbot Cardinal Jarad the papal election (the third in four years) which would be called soon after the present Pope finished dying.

Blacktooth could not decide whether the eminent Half-Breed’s participation in the trial was favorable or unfavorable to his cause. As he remembered the night of the exorcism, he also remembered that in those days Brownpony had not been friendly to the Plains Nomads, either the wild or the tamed. The cardinal had been raised by sisters in the territory conquered by Texark. It had been told to him that his mother, a Nomad, had been raped by a Texark cavalryman, then had abandoned her baby to the sisters. But in recent years, the cardinal had learned to speak the Nomad tongue, and spent much time and effort forging an alliance between the wild people of the Plains and the exiled papacy in its Rocky Mountain refuge at Valana. Blacktooth himself was of pure Nomad blood, although his late parents had been displaced to the farming settlements. His mother owned no mares, and thus he had no status whatever among the wild tribes. His ethnic background had been no handicap during his life as a monk; the brethren were tolerant to a fault, except in matters of faith. But in the so-called civilized world outside, being a Nomad would be hazardous unless he lived on the Plains.

He heard raised voices from the refectory, but could not make out words. One way or another, it was all over for him but the final break, and that was proving to be the hardest thing of all.

A few paces from the bench where he was supposed to wait was a shallow alcove in the corridor wall, and within it stood a statue of Saint Leibowitz. Brother Blacktooth left the bench and went there to   pray, thus disobeying the last command given to him: Sit there, stay there. Breaking his vow of obedience was getting to be a habit. Even a dog will sit and stay, his devil reminded him.

Sancte Isaac Eduarde, ora pro me!

The kneeling rail was too close to the image for him to look up at the saint’s face, so he prayed to the saint’s bare feet, which stood on a pile of fagots. Anyway, by now he knew the wrinkled old countenance by heart.

He remembered when he first came to the abbey, the abbot of that time, Dom Gido Graneden, had already ordered the statue removed from his office, its traditional place of repose, to the corridor here where it now stood. Graneden’s predecessor had committed the sacrilege of having the fine old wood carving painted in “living color,” and Graneden, who loved it in its original condition, could neither bear to look at it, with its painted simper and impossibly upturned irises, nor put up with the smell and noise of having its restoration done in situ. Blacktooth had never seen the full paint job, for upon his arrival the head and shoulders of a man of wood emerged from what appeared to be the chest of a plaster saint. A small area at a time was being treated with a phosphate compound concocted by Brothers Pharmacist and Janitor. As soon as the paint began to blister, they painstakingly scraped it clean, trying to avoid any abrasion of the wood. The process was very slow, and he had lived a year at the abbey before the restoration was complete; by that time, a filing cabinet occupied its space in the abbot’s office, so here it still stood.

The restoration was less than complete even now, at least in the sight of those who remembered its original condition. Occasionally Brother Carpenter stopped to frown disapprovingly at it, then to work on the creases around the eyes with a dental pick, or caress between the fingers with fine sandpaper. He worried about what the paint remover might have done to the wood, so he frequently rubbed it with oil and lovingly polished it. The carving had been done nearly six centuries ago by a sculptor named Fingo, to whom the Beatus Leibowitz—not yet canonized—had appeared in a vision. A close resemblance between the statue and a death mask which Fingo had never seen was used as an argument for his canonization, because it seemed to confirm the reality of Fingo’s vision.

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