Quarantine Paperback – 30 Oct 1997
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|Paperback, 30 Oct 1997||
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The story of Jesus's 40 days in the wilderness is surely among the most celebrated and widely diffused narratives in Western culture. Why, then, would Jim Crace choose to retell it in strictly naturalistic, non-miraculous terms? The obvious answer would be that the godless novelist is trying to debunk divinity--to take the entire New Testament down a notch. And at first, this does seem to be the case. Crace's Jesus first got religion as an adolescent, and "was transformed by god like other boys his age were changed by girls." His peers view his spiritual fervour as a youthful eccentricity. Even now, as the thirtysomething Jesus heads out to the Judaean desert for his 40-day retreat, he's perceived by his fellow anchorites as a flighty and impractical Galilean. They even call him "Gally" for short--and what sort of deity answers to a nickname?
Yet Crace is hardly the jeering materialist we might expect. As Jesus takes to his cliff-top cave, the author renders his religious transports without a hint of irony, and with a linguistic elegance that can hardly be called disrespectful: "The prayers were in command of him. He shouted out across the valley, happy with the noise he made. The common words lost hold of sound. The consonants collapsed. He called on god to join him in the cave with all the noises that his lips could make. He called with all the voices in his throat." And while most of the temptations of Christ are visited upon him by humans--by the motley crew of his cave-dwelling neighbours-- he resists them with what we can only call superhuman will. Quarantine does, of course, operate on a fairly realistic plane. Jesus dies of starvation long before his 40-day fast is complete, and his fellow retreatants, who take centre stage throughout much of the novel, are much too confused and brutal ever to figure in any Sunday school pageant. Still, Crace leaves at least the possibility of resurrection intact at the end, which should ensure that his brilliant book will rattle both believers and non-believers alike. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Remarkable . . . The effect is almost hallucinatory."--Frank Kermode, "The New York Times Book Review"
"Stunning . . . extraordinary . . . One of the freshest and most inventive novelistic uses of biblical material I have read."--"Minneapolis Star Tribune"
"A spiritual mystery of the best kind . . . Crace is a master at creating a convincing landscape out of evocative, earthy details . . . The creation of an ambitious imagination . . . A literary miracle."--"USA Today"
"A superb book . . . It succeeds thanks to Crace's potent, imaginative rendering of the characters and the setting, and because of its distinctive, lilting language."--"Time Out New York"
"Immensely impressive . . . This novel is a high-wire act, a tour de force, a garment expertly tailored from materials of the highest quality."--Bruce Bawer, "The Washington Post Book World"
Remarkable . . . The effect is almost hallucinatory. "Frank Kermode, The New York Times Book Review"
Stunning . . . extraordinary . . . One of the freshest and most inventive novelistic uses of biblical material I have read. "Minneapolis Star Tribune"
A spiritual mystery of the best kind . . . Crace is a master at creating a convincing landscape out of evocative, earthy details . . . The creation of an ambitious imagination . . . A literary miracle. "USA Today"
A superb book . . . It succeeds thanks to Crace's potent, imaginative rendering of the characters and the setting, and because of its distinctive, lilting language. "Time Out New York"
Immensely impressive . . . This novel is a high-wire act, a tour de force, a garment expertly tailored from materials of the highest quality. "Bruce Bawer, The Washington Post Book World"" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Crace's descriptions of the natural world are breathtaking. Using vivid verbs, musical cadences, unique metaphors, and acutely perceived observations about man, nature, and the spirit, he brings the wilderness into sharp focus, often personifying nature and its creatures without a trace of romanticism. "The clouds came down to sniff the hills, to scratch their bellies on the thorns," "Clouds and lightning moved away, banging on their shields," and sounds of wind that "could be mistaken for the vast percussion of the storm-pressed, canvas billows of a ship" are among the hundreds of vibrant and unique images which bring nature to life and illustrate man's closeness to it. With a similar focus on men as humans within nature and the wilderness, he attempts to recreate the quarantine experience and man's desire to connect with a higher power.Read more ›
Words lose their meanings and I suppose it is a sad reflection on the times to note that for most people now the word 'quarantine' conjures up the image of six months of doggy hell; or, just possibly, the director of Pulp Fiction. The founding meaning is gone to most, but the book reminds us that quarantine originally meant a period of 40 days and nights alone, often fasting, done with the aim of achieving some personal or spiritual goal. (The duration alone is retained in the French 'quarante'.) The supporting characters in Crace's novel are four people pursuing such a quarantine in search of relief for their respective problems ("madness, madness, cancer, infertility"). The fifth is Jesus, a young man of zealous disposition. The other four will break their fast every night: a sign that they don't really believe that god will provide for them, let alone that he will cure their maladies. Jesus is different:
"His quarantine would be achieved without the comforts and temptations of clothing, food and water. He'd put his trust in god, as young men do. He would encounter god or die, that was the nose and tail of it. That's why he'd come.Read more ›
In Quarantine, Christ seems to be more of an unlearned carpenter than someone divine; someone whose parents have reprimanded Him for His habit of piety and who has fled to the desert of Judea in a search for God and truth.
Christ is not alone in the Judean wilderness; there are other quarantiners, each with his own purpose and each on his own quest. Some are determined to be cured of blindness or barrenness, while others are simply searching. Jesus chooses one of the most uncomfortable caves in the area in which to spend His forty days, and He is determined to spend them without food or water. In contrast, the wealthy merchant Musa, though suffering from an apparently terminal illness, spends his day with his pregnant wife in a lavish tent.
Crace, a master at integrating his setting into the very fabric of his story, describes the desert in minute detail. This detail, which covers the flora and the fauna, the geography and the geology, is so minute, however, that many readers, (I was one) will need to keep a dictionary handy. If there are words you can't find, don't worry; this is Jim Crace writing and, just as in Being Dead, another five-star novel, words, and worlds, often exist only in the author's imagination. And ours.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Awful book! In my opinion the author has just used the `theme` of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness for 40 days to try to get people to purchase a copy. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
Fascinating and beautifully written. I loved the carefully researched historical details.Published 12 months ago by KimB
Well written interesting story . I liked the way he developed the characters and took a well known bible story and wove it into the lives of his characters. Read morePublished 16 months ago by ruth billingham
Quarantine comes much lauded. It was Booker shortlisted. It ticks the “controversial” box, dealing with an episode of the life of Christ. Read morePublished 21 months ago by MisterHobgoblin