Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Canticle for Leibowitz

As experimental Jazz guru Sun Ra used to say, "It's after the end of the world ... don't you know that yet?" The period from the 1950's the the early 1970's saw the glory days of post-apocalyptic literature and film, and saw the human race wiped out in a wide variety of ways, by mutant ants, giant crabs, mind-controlling aliens, and global warming. Of course, all of these were essentially stand-ins for the great fear of that age, of global nuclear war and its capacity to reduce all of our vaunted civilization to ashes and ruins.

Walter M. Miller, in some ways, resembled others of the ambitious young Sci-Fi writers of the "pulp" era; a WWII veteran with a panache for the fantastical, banging out story after story on a portable typewriter. But in one important respect, he was different: the future he imagined was not a secularized one, but one both bound together and riven by faith. In some accounts, it was Miller's participation in the bombing of an ancient Benadictine monastery that inspired Leibowitz; Miller displaced the time from the past to the future, and imagined a monastery rising anew from what were now nuclear ruins.

The first section of the novel (now that entitled Fiat Homo, Latin for "Let there be Man") appeared in the April 1955 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, alongside now-forgotten writers such as J. Francis McComas and Maurice Procter; the same issue contained an early review of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring, which had just been published in the United States. Miller continued his story in further installments, including "And the Light is Risen" (later Fiat Lux) and "The Last Canticle" (1956). Realizing he had not simply a series of stories, but a full-blown novel on his hands, Miller rewrote and extended these sections, and the novel appeared in full in 1960; it has been in print ever since, and often appears atop lists of the greatest Science Fiction novels of all time.

The story lures the reader in slowly. A novice monk is enduring his time in the wilderness. He's not a particularly bright or gifted monk -- in fact, he's a bit of a klutz -- so much so that he literally stumbles into his greatest discovery -- a metal case containing some writings and technical diagrams by a long-dead electrical engineer named Leibowitz. It's sheer brilliance: but of course, the circuit diagrams he finds are seen not for their meaning, but their beauty; adapted into illuminated manuscripts and stained-glass windows, they preserve their powerful knowledge in a manner unperceived by the monks who copy them. And yet might this not all be part of some strange, possibly divine, plan?

So read A Canticle for Leibowitz -- and imagine. Might not the most durable of human institutions, given the enormity of a nuclear war, be one that endured for so many centuries before it? And what if, within that community, the unplanted seed of the very technology that rendered such destuction possible, were to be somehow incubated?

Your thoughts below.

14 comments:

  1. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. is set up as three different time settings. Fiat Homo, set in the 26th century, Fiat Lux set in the year 3174, and Fiat Volunta Tua in 3781. They are all based on the corruption and destruction of their world and how they face it. The reason why their world is destructed is because their religion beliefs and earthly beliefs conflict. In the end, earthly beliefs triumph against religion and earth and its’ civilization is destroyed. The remaining monks do flee to space. I do believe that without all the nuclear wars and the age of Simplification occurrence, their world would have been different in the way that people would have been knowledgeable and there would not have been mutated people or any violence. In addition, if there had not been a ruler who did not have many unlimited resources at his disposal, they would have had an organized society with freedom and individual rights. (Kathy Mateos)

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  2. During the time setting of Fiat Homo in a Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr, Brother Francis encounters someone wandering in the desert.Francis needs to build a sound shelter, unless he wants monsters to eat him while he is sleeping.The wanderer find a rock to help his sound shelter more secure. Supposedly this sound shelter is a time capsule. Francis discovers a treasure box with the name Leibowitz on it. Francis ends up getting a job as a copyist, he works on a blueprint of Leibowitz. 600 Years later there is a different time setting called Fiat Lux. Paulo believes communication between religion and science is necessary to keep the peace and prevent people like Hannegan from assuming too much power. Dom Paulo ends up dying. He had a vision of power-based war coming to life but then conflict breaks out across the land. 600 more years later and a new time setting appears called Fiat Volunta Tua, it lost technology which means nuclear weapons maintain a tenuous peace. Then a nuclear weapon strikes near the Leibowitz Abbey. A guy named Father Zerchi opens his doors to help those in need and asks for a Green Star relief camp to happen within the abbey. A mother and daughter shows up and Father Zerchi tries to talk to both of them from suicide, but fails. Zerchi listens to a confession from Mrs. Grales, a two-headed woman who wishes to have her sister baptized. During the confession, a nuclear explosion destroys the abbey.They all have something in common such as trying to fix the world but nothing is coming good there way. A shelter turns into a time capsule, trying to keep the peace but conflict occurs, and then trying to protect the world but a nuclear explosion happens. I want to watch the film on this because I want to see how they create these three different time settings. They are all based on religious beliefs. If there were no wars I believe the world would be different today and people wouldn't have to worry about violence. (Jaimee Barrett)

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  3. Walter Miller’s novel A Canticle for Leibowitz is a science fiction story set in the distant future. However, I feel like it does a good job on commenting of the problems of the day. For instance, in the third book is set with the worlds at nuclear war again. Judging on when the book was published, nuclear war and the world’s end were very relevant topics. It was ironic how the story started off as a dystopian society. The cause of the ruins was blamed on tyranny and advanced weaponry. Those who survived blamed knowledge but to me the problem is when education becomes a privilege to those with power. Leaders like Hannegan can abuse the value of information and that’s when the cycle of world destruction started to repeat. In terms of the book itself, It was my favorite of the books so far. I enjoyed the more serious tones and the commentary on religion. To me, Leibowitz was made out to be a martyr and the symbol of a religion. But he could of just been a regular guy who was just trying to survive based off his blueprints that Francis found. I also liked how Miller didn’t make a novel that transtioned well. They are essentially three different stories that can be independent of one another. And the action takes place immedialty, there wasn’t background knowledge of the context, the reader would follow along with the story. It made for a more enjoyable story in my perspective. (Cindy Xon)

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  4. Reading 'A Canticle for Leibowitz' I found myself getting easily confused because of the three different stories in one, but I realized that it was putting a lot of ideas out there that made me see many of the big issues in life in a different way. It made me realize that nuclear destruction of the war could very well still happen, we just aren’t worried about it anymore. Society as a whole is more concerned about how each individual can stay healthy and safe given the circumstances we are in. Now, some people say that technology is very bad for self-health and this relates to another concept presented in this book. As a result of the nuclear destruction, those that survived were living in a type of hunter-gatherer economy. Therefore, they didn’t have the technology that we put so much value on today. Yes, technology makes us lazy and if we didn’t have it we would probably be much more fit human beings, but it does have its benefits. It would be hard to keep up with the pace of society today without it, and if we ever did suddenly have to live without it, many people would probably go crazy because they wouldn’t know how else to live. Overall, I liked the different ideas that this story brought about and I enjoy how it really made me think about the world and all of the endless possibilities it brings about.

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  5. While reading A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Millier Jr I found myself confused and lost with the three different stories. Each story was based on how people faced the corruption and destruction of the world they lived in due to conflict with religious beliefs and earthly beliefs. I feel this book (once I could wrap my head somewhat around it) was an eye opener. I believe this because it shows what happened to the world of the people due to the nuclear wars and conflicts leading to corruption and destruction. It relates to how were live because war occurs due to conflicts with one another. If no war was to take place in this book the people would have lived in a much different world. If there was no one there to tell them how to live what to do and have all the power possible the people would be organized with freedom and know how to go about issues because they would be have knowledge on how to go about conflict without wars and destroying what the each other has. Overall I was not all that interested in the book because I was confused for most of the time and rereading part, that made it so it wasn‘t enjoyable to read. (Kelsey Wood)

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  6. In The Canticle of Leibowitz by Walter Miller Jr, there are 3 different stories and I must say was not one of my favorites so far. The first one being the Fiat Homo, then Fiat Lux, and Fiat Voluntas Tua. As reading this I started off being very confused in each of the stories and had to back and reread to try and get it but then began to settle and understand what is going on in that time period. As you know each story goes into the future about 600 years or so, and you can see how the world is destructed and the cause is because of their religious beliefs. And how they had to live their lives surrounding the war, and how much their lives would be different if the war was not taking place. I feel as if there were not any wars in the past, that maybe our modern day societies would be living differently today. Overall, this was not one of my favorites so far, hope the next book is a better read for me.

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  7. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. is a post-apocalyptic novel which is divided into three parts, Fiat Homo, Fiat Lux, and Fiat Voluntas Tua. The first part concerns Brother Francis, who is a novice from the Leibowitz Abbey. He is in the desert during Lent when he discovers some of Leibowitz’s belongings in a fallout shelter with the help of a pilgrim who marked a rock showing him where to look. After many years Francis becomes a scribe in the abbey and copies documents for posterity. Prior to this time there had been mass destruction of records. Part two takes place centuries later, and is about rediscovering knowledge, such as the creation of a lamp. A man named Thon Taddeo goes to the abbey to study and decipher the contents of its archives. The documents he is examining are the copies which the monks were making in part one. Part three occurs farther in the future during a time of war and destruction, in which the monks are escaping into space. Therefore, the story goes from an age of darkness, to an age of enlightenment, and finally to the apocalypse.
    When discovering that this book was about monks, I did not know what to expect. I certainly did not think they would go into space. At first I thought the book was going to be completely about Brother Francis discovering and uncovering more about Leibowitz, until at the end of part one, when he gets shot by an arrow between the eyes. However, he is mentioned in all three parts. Even though I am not personally a fan of post-apocalyptic books, some parts did make me wonder what would happen to the world if we were ever in a situation such as this. How would we start all over? What would the world have been like had the monks not made copies of everything? Unfortunately, I honestly did not care for the book. In addition to not being a fan of post-apocalyptic books, I found it to be a slow read. The books we have previously read have caught my interest one way or another. However, this book really did not. I think it was mainly due to the fact that, since it was divided into three parts, it made me feel as though I was starting all over again. It did not have a continuous flow for me, and therefore, I could not get fully into it. (Amanda Lussier)

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  8. A Canticle for Leibowitz was an interesting book that was different from the others we have read this semester. The fact that it was split into three parts all six hundred years apart added to it’s novelty. It was a post-apocalyptic book that explored what would happen if there was a nuclear war that devastated humanity as we know it. Religion played a big part in this book and I would say that it was one of the main focuses throughout. As the book was written during the cold war, when everyone was afraid of a nuclear war actually occurring, parts of it held very realistic fears of the people during that time. I think that the impact of the novel was much greater when it was first released than it is now. People aren’t as afraid of nuclear weapons nowadays, so they just read this book as purely science fiction, whereas people probably read this book and believed that it could actually happen one day. I liked that this book addressed real life issues that are still problems today. For example, in the third part Fiat Voluntas Tua, Abbot Zerich and a doctor have an argument about whether assisted suicide is moral or immoral. Zerich claimed that it was immoral and a sin, while the doctor claimed that it would be putting the child out of her misery. Today people still have debates over euthanasia and the morality of it. The books relevance in todays society, with technology being a problem and debates about religion and euthanasia, made it much more interesting to me. (Elizabeth Cook)

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  9. This book was very difficult for me to read. The switches of the narrators and setting was hard to follow and I was confused easily. Anyways, the book was about life after an apocalypse, specifically, a nuclear war. In that era (1960), it was a fear of the society of a nuclear war, so this book was relevant to that time and was realistic to the readers of that time. For today, however, it is just a past time reading. This book also had a lot of religious beliefs, which I wondered how a nuclear war could cause one to think about religion. In my own opinion, after a nuclear war, religion would be last on my mind, but to this people in this time, religion was very important, so I could understand their reasoning. I feel like this book did nothing but scare the people in this time. Not only were they afraid of a nuclear war occurring, but they now fear the aftermath of it as well. It continues the idea of "What if?". What if a nuclear war happened? What will be the aftermath? Overall, this book was not one of my favorites. If it had been less confusing, I may have enjoyed it more.

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  10. In a Canticle for Leibowitz the ideas of a post apocalyptic America are very interesting. My personal opinion of the book was that it was a very dense novel but it picked up the momentum well at high plot points. My favorite part of the book was the idea that these monks had a vast library of knowledge hidden from mankind. This idea lends itself to allow thoughts of secret societies and conspiracy. This was interesting because it was not just a rebuild of America but it was multifaceted with the secrecy of hiding technology and information from mankind until they are ready. This is a fascinating idea and allows the book to hills suspense and intrigue. Another piece of the story I enjoyed was the unpredictable plot twists. From Thon's search for information to the monk's escape to the moon, this novel was extravagant. This film had science fiction basics that created a base for a fantastical story. Overall, I enjoyed this book although it took me longer than I thought it read. I loved the themes and the way this novel took the post apocalyptic path to create a suspenseful mysterious story.

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  11. In a Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr., there are three different parts to the story, Fiat Homo, Fiat Lux, and Fiat Voluntas Tua. In Fiat Homo, Broher Francis decides to build a shelter and goes searching for a gifted rock that will keep him safe at night from the monsters who want to eat him in his sleep. Brother Francis finds a time capsule like object with one of the names of the brothers in his abbey written on it, Leibowitz. In part two, Fiat Lux, a scholar named Thon Taddeo, learns about the artifacts left from 600 years before and goes to figure it out with the help of Brother Kornhoer, when he stumbles upon the arc lamp. In Fiat Voluntas Tua, their world discovers all of their lost technology while Abbot Zerchi and New Rome make a plan for the Catholic Church to survive the destruction of earth. For me, this book was hard to follow and didn't keep my interest. The three different parts and the religious parts of the novel weren't appealing to me at all. Overall, this book has to be my least favorite but I'm hoping the next one will be better. You win some and you lose some, right?

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  12. This book stood out from others we have been reading thus far. In a Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller jr. is a book i found confusing, long and not one of my favorites so far. It had a very prom ant Sci-Fi aspect to this book. It was more on the scary,weird, dark side of Sci-FI although still including some funny moments. This post- apocalyptic based book, the cause being a nuclear war. The fact that the book was broken down into three sections made it even more confusing for me. My favorite of the three sections was the last one because it was more modern and i think easier to follow after finally getting threw the other two. The monks in the story were obviously a huge focus ansi found that they held the whole story together for me. The ending left me thinking, and i like that about endings. however, i am looking forward the next read hoping i'll like that one a little more.
    (Gabrielle Demers)

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  13. The book, 'A Canticle for Leibowitz' written by Walter M. Miller Jr. was an interesting and on your toes type of post apocalyptic novel. The novel was a bit of a heavy book and there was a lot to pay attention to. For someone who doesn't prefer to read, it was okay to get through because of the fun story line. The book starts off after the world has destroyed itself in a nuclear war and from there comes 3 different parts to the book. The first part is a mid evil era where the people are working to rebuild the city and trying to get things back the way they were. The second part of this book was more of a Renaissance type era and during this section the people were busy trying to familiarize themselves with the technology they had forgotten about. Lastly, during the end of the book it became more modern and they people were actually dealing with another nuclear way type situation. There were monks that were responsible for tying to protect and preserve the technology they had rediscovered and protect it from the old world. This book was a lot to read, but the plot was good and it kept you wondering.

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  14. The book "A Canticle for Leibowitz" was very interesting to me. There were a lot of details to pay attention too and was heavy book. The book starts off with explaining the world after a nuclear war and then is split into 3 different parts about a world after the nuclear war. The first part is where the people try to rebuild the city and get back to their normal way of living. The second, is about the people trying to "catch up" with what they missed and building their lives to be up to date, and the third was about monks whos job was to protect and keep away the new technology from the old world, which was a more modern way of handling the nuclear war. Even though the book was quit heavy, it wasn't that bad to read because the material was actually interesting to see three different ways, a community building their world again. I enjoyed reading this book.

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