The Pilgrim’s Story by Brendan Comerford SJ (Messenger Publications, £12.95). Subtitled “The Life and Spirituality of St Ignatius Loyola”, this slim book, written by an Irish Jesuit, novice master and retreat-giver, offers a pastoral perspective on the life of the founder of the Jesuits. The first part deals with Ignatius’s life and the second with Ignatian spirituality. Fr Comerford provides the general reader with an explanation of the practice of the Spiritual Exercises, the discernment of spirits and the examen of conscience. Written clearly and concisely, it is a wise guide to the great Spanish saint and pilgrim.
Do I Belong? by Antony Lerman (Pluto Press, £14.99). In these “Reflections from Europe”, novelists, journalists, lawyers and others share their sense of what it means to be European. Challenging racism, nationalism and populism, they offer a thoughtful contribution to the question of European identity, asking if diversity is to be feared and who decides what “belonging” means. Commissioned by the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue, the essays reflect the tension between global citizens and indigenous citizens in a post-Brexit continent where old certainties are being displaced by new anxieties.
1517: Martin Luther and the Invention of the Reformation by Peter Marshall (Oxford University Press, £16.99). Historians continue to squabble about whether Martin Luther nailed a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg in October 1517. Many suggest that a) it was most likely a piece of later mythologising and that b) even if it did happen, it would not have caused much of a stir. Marshall, who is in the “probably didn’t happen” camp, digs much deeper, looking at how this moment, real or concocted, became such a potent symbol within the historical imagination.
Watling Street by John Higgs (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, £18.99). John Higgs’s quirky travelogue moves, without much sense of purpose but with an eye for obscure factoids, along the ancient route from Dover to North Wales. We’re told that this route, “formed by prehistoric feet” but now easy to miss beneath the tarmac, is “the most enchanting and significant road in the country”. The history it has witnessed is suitably spectacular and Higgs makes a bold, if not always reliable, attempt to capture it. He also introduces a cast of characters who have had more recent encounters with the road: though most of these were far more interesting to the author than to this reader.
Such Fine Boys by Patrick Modiano (Yale University Press, £12.99). Perhaps the greatest benefit of Modiano winning the 2015 Nobel prize is that his novels are finally being translated into English. Such Fine Boys dates from 1980 and is unusual in the Modiano oeuvre, focusing on a group of rich, bored pupils at a privileged French boarding school in the 1960s. The narrator ponders the past, its meanings and lacunae, as he follows such bright promise into the blighted lives of ennui and emptiness that overwhelm these “boys” later in life. Melancholy and strikingly profound.
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