Why Angels Fall: A Journey Through Orthodox Europe f: A Journey Through Orthodox Europe from Byzantium to Kosovo Paperback – 8 Jun 2001
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Victoria Clark travelled across most of Eastern Europe to write Why Angels Fall. Having worked as a journalist in Romania, the former Yugoslavia and Russia for six years, she was fascinated by the Eastern Orthodox churches and keen to unravel their history and beliefs. To do so she journeyed from Mount Athos, to Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Romania, Russia, Cyprus and finally Istanbul, interviewing clergy and other believers. We're treated to a series of vivid cameos, a few of whose subjects glow almost visibly with holiness, a few terrify and many show qualities rare and needed in the West. As Clark puts it, after the ancient split between eastern and western Christianity, "each side lost something it could not happily do without ... at the risk of over-simplifying for the sake of clarity, western Christendom can be said to have lost its heart, eastern Christendom its mind."
Her keenness to explain Orthodoxy to westerners stems from a fear that the continent is in the process of fracturing along a thousand-year-old fault line, between the Catholic and Protestant west and the Orthodox east. The book combines high quality, highly readable travel writing with a powerful mix of politics and religion. Perhaps, most of all, it demonstrates the power of history, and of different peoples' conflicting versions of history. Again and again Clark finds the present in the grip of the past. In Serbia, for example, she cannot escape the legends surrounding the destruction of the Serbs' medieval empire in 1389, and the death of the venerated Prince Lazar: "the battle of Kosovo's interruption of Serbia's golden greatness has become a cataclysm to rival man's expulsion from the Garden of Eden in the minds of Serbs ... Prince Lazar is the key to understanding the Serbs' deep conviction that, however many wars they initiate, they remain a nation of victims and martyrs." --David Pickering --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"'Compelling, powerful, magnificent' The Times 'I finished the book wanting to meet this intelligent warm-hearted writer, and to follow her to some of the places she visited' Literary Review; 'A masterful synthesis of vivid and often humorous travel writing, a series of probing interviews and a pertinent historical context' The Times; 'Exhilarating...her book will be immensely helpful to anyone occasionally puzzled by events, especially politics, in Eastern Europe' Financial Times"See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
These journies were motivated by her desire to understand and make known the costs and ongoing liabilities in present-day Europe to both the Christian east and west of the Catholic-Orthodox schism of 1054 and its corresponding mutual mistrust. Her primary thesis is that this schism cost the west its heart and the Orthodox east its mind and that the two are dangerously unbalanced without one another.
Clark makes these journies under the influence of her years as a journalist in the Balkans and Samuel Huntington's provocative thesis that present day history is a function of the clash of distinct civilizations including, western europe and Orthodoxy. Clark is not a Christian, but claims to be a theist. Most evident though, is her secular humanism.
Clark frames these journies in terms of two forces in Orthodoxy, phyletism, a heresy which identifies Christian faith with nationalism, and hesychasm, a primarily monastic prayer practice which aids the integration of the human person by conforming one's whole person to the life of the Trinity, and through which one may become divinized. Clark posits these as the basest and highest expressions of Orthodoxy and she journies about in order to see how these interact in contemporary Orthodox Europe.
The great strength of this book is Clark's writing of her encounters with Orthodox who are expressive of either or sometimes both of these traits. She brilliantly evokes some of these personalities and makes their presence palpable to the reader.Read more ›
If this were a "Holidays in Hell" type of travelogue it would be acceptable, but it hopes to be much more. A few nuggets of history interspersed between the vignettes about hateful people pass for scholarly research and allow the book to hide behind a patina of learning.
That said, the book's main merit is that there is not much more out there that gives an informal, human outsider's encounter with a phenomena that is as much a culture as a religion. It is worth reading, but not worth forming an opinion from.
I got that from the book, enjoyed the style and the content.
I couldn't and wouldn't comment about the various levels of accuracy on the politics, I'm old enough to know that there are 3 perspectives on any issue My View, Your View and the Truth. This book has at least given me a starting point for developing my view.
I reccomend it as a good step into the murky world of the orthodox church and the balkans and it's associated politics.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Miss Clarke [...] really lets her secular humanist biases show through. One example is the fact that she says that because of the split in 1054 between the Rome and Constantinople... Read morePublished on 16 Mar. 2002
...As indicated (critically) by another commentator, Ms Clark's "thesis" is indeed limited by the fact that she is not Othodox and therefore cannot present an Orthodox picture of... Read morePublished on 24 April 2001
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