Monday, June 15, 2015

A Canticle for Leibowitz (by Walter M. Miller Jr.)

Next on my reading list, A Canticle for Leibowitz
Comments about the book:

"The novel is about the cyclic nature of mankind's history, and how (despite the best efforts of some people) people make the same mistakes over and over again, some of which can have devastating effects. There are figures in the novel that are deliberate parallels of real historical figures (Hannegan, the Mayor of Texarkana and Henry VIII of England, for example), who make the same mistakes and bad/evil/unintended actions that have happened before."

"There are also some particularly gripping scenes, such as the one in which the last abbot instructs the colonists to go and spread across the Universe, taking their religion with them....but never come back to Earth, for fear that God may set up an archangel before as he did with Eden, in the light of a looming holocaust that would destroy the beauty of Earth as Eden was destroyed, or perverted, through evil actions made by mankind."  

"Mankind is permanently flawed, within history, will always require the Church to rebuild after men's errors, and will always have such, even unto the stars, until the Parousia."

"Canticle is about the Church of the future, after the Third World War, which leaves the earth full of radioactivity and resentment against technology, science, and literacy. The Church passes through the three historical eras of Dark, High, and Decadent once again, as she has done already. (The implied cyclic, or spiraling, philosophy of history manifests the truth of original sin.) Like Dostoevsky’s novels, this one is stabbingly realistic—New Agers must hate it—yet hope is present, in the end, though at a terrible cost. There is humor throughout, which is often sardonic but never sneering. There is an unforgettable surprise ending with a profoundly Marian theme that is grotesquely O’Connerish yet touching and beautiful. It is one of the most stunning plot twists I have ever seen. When this book is made into a movie (it is inevitable), it will be one of the greatest movies ever made."


An excerpt from a New Yorker article by Jon Michaud. The full article is copied and pasted at the bottom of this post.

Walter M. Miller Jr. is best known for the only novel he published in his lifetime,
“A Canticle for Leibowitz.” Composed of a trilogy of novellas that originally appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ”Canticle,” which was released in 1959, has never been out of print, selling more than two million copies. While it hasn’t attracted the following enjoyed by “The Lord of the Rings” or even “Dune,” it remains a hugely influential book and a landmark of post-apocalyptic fiction. Along with Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles,” “A Canticle for Leibowitz” was one of the first novels to escape from the science-fiction ghetto and become a staple of high-school reading lists. Its legacy can be seen in the works of Gene Wolfe, Margaret Atwood, and many other speculative-fiction authors who came after him, as well as in the current flood of end-of-the-world novels, TV shows, and movies.


In the summer of 1998, while on my ten-day honeymoon in Idaho, I found a tattered red paperback book in a used bookstore. Amazingly enough, Idaho had a lot of bookstores then, and I remember perusing many of them during our ten days of post-wedding bliss. Whether Idahoans still possess a bibliophilic outlook on life, I don’t know. Here’s hoping.
Regardless. . . . Someone had stacked this bruised treasure rather haphazardly in a pile of science fiction books. Published by Bantam, it certainly didn’t appear to be science fiction. In fact, it looked rather religious. Someone must have misplaced it, I reasoned. Intrigued, though, I picked it up. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. it stated, proclaiming at the bottom of the cover: “500,000 Copies in Print!” Giving the PR folks the benefit of the doubt, I translated this to well over a half-million sold and read. We can all dream. 
On the cover, the company presented a ghostly-looking monk with a destroyed urban landscape in the background. Canticle? Leibowitz? 500,000? Purely out of curiosity—and perhaps on a bit of a honeymoon high—I purchased it. After all, it cost only $.50, and I had been looking for some new fiction. If I remember correctly, I had just completed Tom Clancy’s latest, and I was looking for something completely different.

And, completely different it proved to be just in the first two pages. An exhausted novice and a world-weary pilgrim cross paths in the post-nuclear war wastes of southern Utah. With some hurt feelings and miscommunication, the pilgrim begins to throw stones at the monk. But, he also leads the monk to a great discovery: a fallout shelter once belonging to the great hero of the story—a hero who never fully emerges—the nuclear engineer, I.E. Leibowitz.
I have now read, taught, and written about this novel countless times. It is, for me, the worthy successor to Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop. But, whereas Cather’s novel might very well serve as “the great American novel,” Miller’s serves as the great Augustinian novel. For Miller, a bombardier in World War II and a convert to Roman Catholicism (despite great opposition from his southern Protestant family), the world moved in cycles with grace relieving us of our own insanity from time to time.

In the somewhat puzzling way that fails to explain the rise and fall of
reputations, Miller never gained the following that Cather did or his contemporaries, Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut, did. His one published novel—in actuality the melding together of three novellas—remains mostly stuck in the world of science fiction studies. Catholics have never fully embraced him because he mocks the church as much as he praises it. Some Catholics, I suspect, assumed him to be merely another Brian Moore (the author of Black Robe), a kind of anti-Catholic Catholic. That Miller ended his own life raises doubts about his piety as well, at least among many Catholics. (note from Soutenus: not sure I agree with this! Many Catholics have fully embraced this book and see a deeper message that is very pro-Catholic)

Some critical Christian Humanists, such as Walker Percy, though, saw something special in Miller. “The peculiar virtue of the novel,” Percy wrote in 1971, “lies in the successful marriage of a subliterary pop form with a subject matter of transliterary import.” Within the praise exists a slap as well: what was Miller doing writing science fiction?

From the standpoint of 2014 rather than 1971, we can ask critically, how would Miller have been expected to write his philosophical, theological, and metaphysical ideas without having writing within the genre of science fiction? It is worth remembering that until the 1960s, science fiction remained the great and almost unique refuge of the serious and imaginative intellectuals, both on the left and the right (and everywhere above, below, and near the supposed spectrum of beliefs). Most of the reading public—in and out of academia—had dismissed science fiction (as well as fantasy and comicbook super heroes) as not merely low-brow, but pulpish and quasi-pornographic. Those who wrote and read science fiction—Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, C.S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury, and Walter Miller—knew so much better. In science fiction, any world could be imagined, and various anthropologies could be explored. Indeed, endless worlds and anthropologies existed, limited only by the imagination. Hence, Ray Bradbury could smash racial discrimination openly in science fiction (1950’s “Way in the Middle of the Air”) in a way that mainstream publishers never would have allowed in the 1940s and 1950s. Equally important, Miller could examine the Augustinian truths of history, governments, technology, war, and religion. And, by doing so, he could critique the Nazis, the Soviets, and the Americans for their recent atrocities against the human person.

One of the most important things that Miller explores is the relationship of Judaism and Christianity. The Wandering Jew of A Canticle is at once wise, charitable, hilarious, and cranky. The myth runs that as Jesus carried the Cross to Golgotha, Veronica wiped his face, but another refused to help him. The latter man, the story runs, condemned himself to wander the earth until the end of all things. In other words, what Jesus accomplished through his death on one afternoon, the uncharitable man would seek throughout all of history. Through this story, Miller explains the relationship of the Jews and the Catholics. Whereas the Jews are the single oldest and most coherent of peoples, the Church provides the longest lived institution in the West. With Canticle—a song—Miller demonstrates the absolute necessity of both the Old and New Covenants, the brotherhood (and sisterhood) of Jews and Catholics. In so doing, Miller reaffirms traditional Catholic teaching about the mystery of the Old Covenant and the salvation of the Jews while also anticipating much of the language employed at Vatican II.

In chapter 16 of book two of Canticle—Fiat Lux—the following conversation takes place between the Jew and the Abbot.
Benjamin shrugged eloquently. ‘Different, secular scholars,’ he echoed, tossing out the words like discarded apple pits. ‘I have been called a ‘secular scholar’ at various times by certain people, and sometimes I’ve been staked, stoned, and burned for it.’
‘Why you never—‘ The priested stopped, frowning sharply. That madness again. Benjamin was peering at him suspiciously, and his smile had gone cold. Now, thought the abbot, he looking at me as I were one of Them—whatever formless ‘Them’ it was that drove him here to solitude. Staked, stoned, and burned? Or did his ‘I’ means ‘We’ as in ‘I, my people’?
‘Benjamin—I am Paulo. Torquemada is dead. I was born seventy-odd years ago, and pretty soon I’ll die. I have loved you, old man, and when you look at me, I wish you would see Paulo of Pecos and no other.’
Benjamin wavered for a moment. His eyes became moist. “I sometimes—forget—‘
‘And sometimes you forget that Benjamin is only Benjamin, and not all of Israel.’
But, of course, from a literary standpoint, Benjamin does represent the sacrifice and burden carried by all of Israel for all of history, the burden of being God’s chosen.

Throughout the novel, whether playful and silly or dark and serious, Miller understands clearly that Jew and Christian must travel together, not as rivals, but as brothers. The Old must walk journey with the New, and the New must provide the institutional shelter for the Old.
Only through science fiction—at least in the 1950s—could such truths be told to large audiences not congregated before a pulpit.

Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.

An Augustinian Wasteland: A Canticle for Leibowitz Fifty Years Later 
Dr. Bradley J. Birzer|
Ignatius Insight  
April 15, 2010

  "There was objective meaning in the world, to be sure: the nonmoral logos
or design of the Creator; but such meanings were God's and not Man's, until they found an imperfect incarnation, a dark reflection, within the mind and speech and culture of a given human society, which might ascribe values to the meanings so that they became valid in a human sense within the culture. For Man was a culture-bearer as well as a soul-bearer, but his cultures were not immortal and they could die with a race or an age, and then human reflections of meaning and human portrayals of truth receded, and truth and meaning resided, unseen, only in the objective logos of Nature and the ineffable Logos of God. Truth could be crucified; but soon, perhaps, a resurrection." —A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (1959; New York: Bantam/Spectra, 1997), pp. 145-146.

A Canticle for Leibowitz has been one of my favorite books for most of my adult life. I have read it and reread it many times. In fact, I have read it and perused it too many times to count. I find the work as compelling as the best of T. S. Eliot. But, while Eliot always leavens, Miller always sobers. In Canticle, one discovers some of Eliot's thought, but also Christopher Dawson's and Jacques Maritain's thought and especially St. Augustine's thought. Much like his fifth-century forebear, Miller places a variety of anthropologies and humanisms before the reader, as well as competing visions of history. Unlike his North African counterpart, though, Miller never answers his own questions and puzzles definitively. The reader remains restless, for he never rests in Thee.

I also have taught the book several times in various classroom settings. With only a few exceptions, bright college students find it intriguing and thought provoking, even if the theology confuses them, Catholic as well as Protestant. The characters of Mrs. Grales and Rachel tend to cause much concern as well as wonder among students.

Walter Miller served as a tail gunner on a bomber during the Italian campaign in World War II. His bombing group, in part, aided in the destruction of Monte Cassino, the oldest monastery in the Western world. The destruction of this Benedictine institution haunted Miller, and after the war he found himself drawn not only to the study of Western Civilization and its preservation, but, more importantly, to the endurance and significance of the Roman Catholic Church as a protective institution. Probably to the chagrin of many of those around him, Miller converted in 1947, shortly after his marriage. He explored many of the ideas of Roman Catholic theology in his many short stories written during the 1950s. As it turned out, this decade proved to be Miller's Golden Age, an age that he spent much of his remaining adult life trying to recapture but unsuccessfully so. In the mid-to-late 1990s, frustrated with God knows what and taunted by who knows what, Miller took his own life. Another author completed Miller's unfinished sequel, St. Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman. This second book takes place during the second of the three eras featured in Canticle, roughly 1,200 years after the atomic war of 1960.

Numerous readings of Canticle for Leibowitz have left me with this: it is a complicated, nuanced, and perplexing novel, a mystery to be enjoyed, time and again, never to be solved. Set in the Intermountain Desert West in the futureless United States of America, A Canticle for Leibowitz offers a vibrant image of a desiccated human culture and a desiccated human politics, an irradiated landscape, and an inevitably dark and shameful future. As with some of its contemporaneous fiction—such as Ayn Rand's much less earnest Atlas ShruggedCanticle for Leibowitz offers great insight into the nature and power of ideas, set in a dystopian world. While Rand, by far better known in popular culture and in book sales, possesses a stunning power to plot an intricate plot, she cannot match Miller in character development or writing style. As an example of one beautiful sentence: "The water was clouded and live with creeping uncertainties as was the Old Jew's stream of memory" (p. 167).

Certainly, I am not alone in my appreciation of this novel. Edmund Fuller, one of the best literary critics of the 20th century, called Canticle a "memorable fantasia" (New York Times (January 12, 1964, pg. BR2)), and Martin Levin called it "ingenious" (New York Times (March 27, 1960), pg. BR42)).

Many, though, have thought it a waste of paper. An anonymous reviewer in Time magazine, for example, wrote of Miller: "His faith in religious faith is commendable but not compelling," claiming the book intellectually vacuous (n.a., Time (February 22, 1960)).

In the beginning of Canticle, set roughly five-and-a-half centuries from now, a wandering Jew throws pebbles at a confused and seemingly not-so-bright monk, Brother Francis. When the confused Catholic, led by the hand of the perturbed Jew, discovers an underground tavern, office, and bunker, he finds what he considers holy relics: a shopping list, some blueprints, and the body of a dead woman. This encounter, shaped from its beginning by the will and observation of the Jew, starts the cycle of civilization, corruption, decay, and death all over again.


 New Yorker -

A Science-Fiction Classic Still Smolders


The abbey at Monte Cassino is situated atop a rocky hill about eighty miles south of Rome and was founded in 529 by St. Benedict of Nursia. It was there that the Benedictine order established the principles of Western monasticism. From Monte Cassino, monks went out and set up monasteries across the Christian world. Generations of scribes labored in the abbey’s library to copy texts and preserve artifacts that dated to antiquity. According to “Monte Cassino,” a history by Matthew Parker, by the start of the Second World War the monastery’s collection had grown to forty thousand manuscripts, including the majority of the writings of Tacitus, Cicero, Horace, Virgil, and Ovid. While the monastery’s perch on top of fifteen hundred feet of rock provided security, its location, near the main road between Naples and Rome, made the structure an attractive strategic asset. The abbey has been sacked many times: by the Longobards in 581, the Saracens in 884, and by Napoleon nearly a millennium later. Each time, it was rebuilt grander than before. And with each reconstruction the abbey took on more of the characteristics of a citadel.
From November, 1943, to May, 1944, the hill on which the abbey stood was at the center of one of the largest and bloodiest battles of the Second World War. Monte Cassino was a crucial part of the Gustav Line, a string of fortified German defenses that bisected Italy. In anticipation of the Allied push toward Rome, Hitler ordered that the Gustav Line be upgraded to “fortress strength.” Seeing the opportunity for a propaganda victory, the Nazis helped the monks box up many of the abbey’s treasures and transfer them to safety before the fighting began. Most of the monks then fled. The Allied command, believing that the Germans were using the abbey as a garrison and ammunition dump, made the controversial decision to bomb Monte Cassino. On February 15, 1944, American B-17s, B-25s, and B-26s dropped more than four hundred tons of explosives on the monastery. (Film of the bombing can be seen on YouTube.) Hundreds of civilians who had taken refuge there were killed. A handful of monks and other survivors left the abbey the next day. The fighting continued for another three months before a group of Polish soldiers planted their nation’s flag among the ruins of the monastery, signaling an Allied victory.

One of the American airmen who participated in the bombing of Monte Cassino was a young radio operator and tail gunner from Florida named Walter M. Miller, Jr. Miller, who enlisted in the Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor, flew on more than fifty combat missions in B-25 Mitchells above the Mediterranean region and the Balkans. Following the war, he got married, studied engineering at the University of Texas, and converted to Catholicism. In the fifties, he began publishing stories and novellas in Amazing StoriesGalaxyAstounding Science Fiction, and other magazines. Miller also wrote scripts for the popular television show “Captain Video and His Video Rangers.” The list of writers for “Captain Video” includes some of the biggest names in mid-century science fiction: Arthur C. Clarke, James Blish, Isaac Asimov, and Jack Vance.

Miller is best known for the only novel he published in his lifetime, “A Canticle for Leibowitz.” Composed of a trilogy of novellas that originally appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ”Canticle,” which was released in 1959, has never been out of print, selling more than two million copies. While it hasn’t attracted the following enjoyed by “The Lord of the Rings” or even “Dune,” it remains a hugely influential book and a landmark of post-apocalyptic fiction. Along with Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles,” “A Canticle for Leibowitz” was one of the first novels to escape from the science-fiction ghetto and become a staple of high-school reading lists. Its legacy can be seen in the works of Gene Wolfe, Margaret Atwood, and many other speculative-fiction authors who came after him, as well as in the current flood of end-of-the-world novels, TV shows, and movies.

The book’s first novella, “Fiat Homo” (“Let there be Man”), is set at a monastery in the Utah desert some six hundred years after a nuclear holocaust known as the Flame Deluge. The war caused a backlash against learning and knowledge, called the Simplification, which wiped out almost all traces of civilization. Most of the people on earth are illiterate. Many are deformed by radiation. The monks who reside in the monastery are devoted to honoring the memory of Isaac Edward Leibowitz, a Jewish scientist at Los Alamos who was martyred for his efforts to safeguard scientific knowledge in the aftermath of the conflict. They collect and transcribe the “Leibowitz Memorabilia,” including shopping lists, technical documents, and circuit diagrams that they cannot even begin to understand. The protagonist of “Fiat Homo” is a bumbling but well-intentioned novice named Francis who, during a Lenten fast in the desert, accidentally discovers the fallout shelter Leibowitz used. This discovery results in Leibowitz’s elevation to sainthood. Francis makes the treacherous journey to New Rome to witness the canonization and is killed by mutant tribesmen on his way back to the abbey.

The second novella, “Fiat Lux” (“Let there be Light”), takes place hundreds of years later, in the thirty-second century. Like most middle parts of trilogies, it is the least compelling—”the long belly of a dachshund, slung … between two pairs of sturdy legs,” as Peter Matthiessen characterized the second volume of his Watson trilogy. After more than a millennium, mankind is on the cusp of emerging from the dark ages brought about by the Flame Deluge. Hostility is brewing among the city-states (Denver, Texarkana, Monterey) that have risen out of the former American nation. A prominent scientist named Thon Taddeo, a latter-day Newton or Einstein, visits the monastery to investigate its holdings. He is astonished to find that one of the monks has created a working electric light, which is powered by a sort of treadmill. Taddeo believes the Leibowitz Memorabilia will lead him to breakthroughs in his work, but the abbot refuses to let Taddeo take items from the library back to Texarkana. Meanwhile, the abbey narrowly avoids being used as a military base for an attack on Denver.
The final part, “Fiat Voluntas Tua” (“Let Thy Will Be Done”), describes the beginning of another nuclear war, this time between the world’s two dominant powers, the Atlantic Confederacy and the Asian Coalition. It is the year 3781 and civilization has not only recovered but has developed beyond the level it was at in the mid-twentieth century. Nation-states once again have nuclear arsenals. Space travel between earth and distant colonies has become common. There is even a communication device in the abbey that is a combination of Google Translate and Google Voice. As the war begins, the abbot Dom Zerchi, instructs a group of monks to flee the earth for a colony near Alpha Centauri. They take the Leibowitz Memorabilia with them. After they depart, the abbey, which has stood for nearly two thousand years, is demolished by an atomic bomb. The abbot is crushed in the ruins. The final passages of the book are an eerie imagining of the Earth without mankind:

A wind came across the ocean, sweeping with it a pall of fine white ash. The ash fell into the sea and into the breakers. The breakers washed dead shrimp ashore with the driftwood. Then they washed up the whiting. The shark swam out to his deepest waters and brooded in the old clean currents. He was very hungry that season.
Every generation conjures its own apocalypses and dystopias. They give us an index of the collective anxieties of the era. In the decades before the First World War, “invasion stories“ such as H. G. Wells’s “The War of the Worlds” populated the best-seller lists in Britain and the United States. Yevgeny Zamyatin’s “We” and George Orwell’s “1984” were fuelled by widespread fears of authoritarian governments during the first half of the twentieth century. Postwar American science fiction is overflowing with thinly disguised freak-outs about Communism and nuclear Armageddon. More recently, we have seen a plethora of books that fret about economic collapse, the spread of infectious diseases, and the destruction of the environment. Colson Whitehead’s “Zone One,” Karen Thompson Walker’s “The Age of Miracles,” Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, Edan Lepucki’s “California,” and Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven” are all part of this wave. Looming is Junot Díaz’s work-in-progress, which combines alien invasion with viral illness and an overheated planet. (Part of the novel was published as the short story “Monstro“ in The New Yorker in 2012.)
“A Canticle for Leibowitz” sits squarely at the heart of the subgenre of novels about nuclear holocaust. (Miller’s preferred term was “Megawar.”) The subject was enough of an obsession for Miller that he later edited, with Martin Greenberg, an anthology called “Beyond Armageddon,” which featured post-apocalyptic tales by Bradbury, Clarke, Harlan Ellison, J. G. Ballard, and many others. In his introduction to the collection, Miller noted that the stories shared a nostalgia for things that have been lost. “Post-Megawar stories are about an afterlife,” Miller wrote. “Survivors don’t really live in such a world; they haunt it.”

Beyond being a repository for his fears about the bomb, “A Canticle for
Leibowitz” was a means for Miller to work through the trauma and guilt that haunted him from his wartime experiences, especially the bombing of the abbey at Monte Cassino. By his own admission, the Miller did not become fully aware of the driving force behind his novel until he was working on its third part. “I was writing the first version of the scene where Zerchi lies half buried in the rubble,” Miller recalled. “Then a light bulb came on over my head: ‘Good God, is this the abbey at Monte Cassino? . . . What have I been writing?’”

Within the cathedral of post-apocalyptic and dystopian literature, there ought to be a small sanctum reserved for books produced out of the author’s personal experience with cataclysmic events. Other works that fit into this niche include Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five,” which was inspired by the writer having witnessed the fire-bombing of Dresden, and “The Forever War,” Joe Haldeman’s 1974 novel, which drew directly on his tour of duty in Vietnam. (A lesser case could also be made for Nevil Shute’s “On the Beach,” which was published two years before “Canticle.” Shute was an engineer who worked for the Royal Navy’s Directorate of Miscellaneous Weapons Development during the Second World War. He later covered the Normandy landings as a writer for the Ministry of Defense.)

A second link between these works by Miller, Vonnegut, and Haldeman, is humor. While a post-apocalyptic novel set in a monastery may not strike most readers as rich terrain for comedy, “A Canticle for Leibowitz” is a surprisingly funny book, in small ways and large. Even Miller’s basic premise—that the Catholic Church, like a cockroach, cannot be killed by a nuclear war—made me chuckle throughout. Miller proves himself a dab hand at slapstick: Francis, the protagonist of “Fiat Homo” is as hapless as one of the Three Stooges, and Thon Taddeo, the brilliant scientist in “Fiat Lux” is a stuffed-shirt academician who would be at home in a David Lodge novel. In “Fiat Voluntas Tua,” Miller satirizes the political doublespeak with the rhetoric that obscures the start of the book’s nuclear war. Overlying it all is the irony at the core of so many apocalyptic fictions: that self-destruction is an immutable part of the human condition. In “A Canticle for Leibowitz,” the knowledge that the monks faithfully preserved ultimately contributes to the obliteration of the world.

“Canticle” has aged well, but for many contemporary readers the book will have a glaring flaw: a nearly total lack of women. Of course, setting your novel in a monastery does limit the opportunities to include female characters, but even among the scenes set outside the walls of the abbey, there is only one significant female character: a two-headed mutant who ends up being a kind of blessed virgin. (The old Madonna-mutant paradox.) Readers could reasonably assume that female members of the species did not survive the first nuclear holocaust. Their absence is a sign of a deeper problem in the book: there is a conspicuous absence of physical and emotional intimacy. Miller is grappling with Big Questions, but I occasionally wished for scenes in which the pressures of those big questions would manifest themselves in private moments of comfort between characters. Those kinds of intimacies are a more common feature of the recent crop of apocalyptic novels.

After the success of “A Canticle for Leibowitz,” Miller withdrew into Salinger-like seclusion in Florida. His longtime agent, Don Congdon (who also represented Bradbury), said that Miller was his only client whom he never met in person. When Miller wrote a fan letter to fellow science-fiction author and Florida resident, Lucius Shepard, he added the following post script: “This does not mean I want to meet you.” Miller didn’t publish any new fiction from 1959 until his death, almost four decades later. (“Beyond Armageddon,” which he co-edited, appeared in 1985. Collections of his stories from the fifties were also re-issued.)

“Walt was deeply depressed by post-traumatic stress disorder and had been for half a century,’’ Joe Haldeman told the Washington Post. ‘‘I don’t know how many people he felt responsible for killing, but it was a lot.’’ Miller took his own life in January of 1996. Police found him sitting in a chair on his lawn, with a gunshot wound to the head. Miller himself had placed a 911 call before pulling the trigger. No major newspaper printed an obituary for him, apparently bowing to the wishes of Miller’s family to respect his privacy.

Miller had spent years working on a sequel to “Canticle.” In the nineteen-eighties, Congdon brokered a six-figure deal for the book with Bantam, based on sixty pages. Miller worked hard but struggled to finish the manuscript. ‘‘He couldn’t get rid of it—it was basically depression and booze,’’ said Congdon. Miller managed to compose more than five hundred pages, which amounted to nine-tenths of the projected book. At Congdon’s request, and with Miller’s approval, the respected science fiction author Terry Bisson agreed to edit and complete the manuscript. Bisson recalls Miller saying that “any idiot with a sense of humor can finish the book.” The book, “Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman,” was released in 1997 to very mixed reviews. Miller, sadly, did not live to see it published, but his début still haunts the world, just as the bombing of Monte Cassino haunted him.


Otra sources:

Study Guide and on-line book:

A Thesis by Cynthis Anne Miller Smith (Georgia State Universiry)

Note: The novel consists of three parts: Fiat Homo (Let There Be Man), Fiat Lux (Let There Be Light), and Fiat Voluntas Tua (Thy Will Be Done). 

List of Latin Phrases for A Canticle for Leibwitz:

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