"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Life of René Girard

Growing up as I did in Her Britannic Majesty's senior dominion, I listened religiously to CBC radio, especially its wonderfully edifying evening program "Ideas," which I found on a pocket radio in the summer of my 12th year and listened to secretly when I was supposed to be asleep.

It was on one episode of that program, later in my life--I think in the late 1990s--that I first came across the work of René Girard, who has done so much to help us understand the role of the "scapegoat" and to see how violence and sacrifice work, but are also overturned by the advent of Christ.

Author of such landmark works as Violence and the Sacred and Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, Girard, who died in 2015, was and is a hugely important scholar whose influence continues to grow. He will soon be the subject of a welcome biography I am greatly looking forward to reading: Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard by Cynthia L Haven  (Michigan State University Press, 2018), 346pp.

About this book (a chapter of which is excerpted for separate publication) the publisher tells us:
René Girard (1923–2015) was one of the leading thinkers of our era—a provocative sage who bypassed prevailing orthodoxies to offer a bold, sweeping vision of human nature, human history, and human destiny. His oeuvre, offering a “mimetic theory” of cultural origins and human behavior, inspired such writers as Milan Kundera and J. M. Coetzee, and earned him a place among the forty “immortals” of the Académie Française. Too often, however, his work is considered only within various academic specializations. This first-ever biographical study takes a wider view. Cynthia L. Haven traces the evolution of Girard’s thought in parallel with his life and times. She recounts his formative years in France and his arrival in a country torn by racial division, and reveals his insights into the collective delusions of our technological world and the changing nature of warfare. Drawing on interviews with Girard and his colleagues, Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard provides an essential introduction to one of the twentieth century’s most controversial and original minds.

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