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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

The Gospel of Judas by Simon Mawer. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2001. ISBN: 0-316-09750-0

This is another of the books on those lists of what to read when you can't get your hands on Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. Or if you've already read it, and want something else along the same lines. But in my opinion, this one doesn't quite measure up.

The only obvious connection seems to be that it deals with the fictional discovery in the recent past of an ancient gospel era manuscript, older than any of the known manuscripts to the canonical gospels, which purports to be by "Youdas son of Simon of Keriot known also as Youdas the sicarios," and which presents a strikingly different version of the last days of "Yeshu the Nazir."

But we don't get any of that until page 130, more than a third of the way through this 330 page novel. The first part of the book is the much more mundane story of a priest who is gradually but inevitably losing his faith and becoming involved with a married woman, with the two events intertwining inextricably around each other until you can't tell where the one begins and the other leaves off.

Also thrown in are flashbacks to the 1940's and flashforwards to the present, telling first the story of how Father Leo Newman came to be, and then where he is now, his priesthood stripped from him, his life a fairly bleak existence, although he's living with one of his language students. Bleak isn't a bad adjective for the entire narrative. Vaguely depressing might be another description. There is a kind of grayness that seems to run through the entire narrative. Not particularly recommended unless religious disillusionment is your cup of tea.


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