Saturday, June 5, 2010

Marilynn Robinson, Calvin and Stefan Zweig

I've just received Marilynn Robinson's new book, Absence of Mind, an excerpt from which can be found at the Guardian. There's a review of this new work by Tim Teeman at the Times of London, and a very favourable review of it by the Archbishop of Canterbury. For more reviews, see this Complete Review page.

Calvin doesn't figure much in Robinson's new book; he's mentioned in passing once (in the chapter on Freud). Robinson wrote extensively on Calvin in her collection of essays, The Death of Adam, and she wrote the Preface for John Calvin: Steward of God's Covenant. Here's a good article on her treatment of Calvin.

Another sympathetic expositor of Calvin in popular forums is Paul Helm, who wrote the Guardian's series on Calvin last year. And here's Melvyn Bragg's BBC podcast on Calvin.

Remarkably, there's a relevant link to Stefan Zweig (who's become a lurking presence on this blog), since Zweig wrote a book called The Right to Heresy: Castellio Against Calvin (I think this is Zweig's book on-line but with a slightly different title). Calvin's Geneva served as Zweig's dystopia, with Calvin and his minions playing the role of Big Brother. The protagonist was Sebastian Castellio, who had the temerity to disagree with Calvin over Biblical interpretation.

Castellio has since become a sort of saint for liberal Protestants such as the Unitarian minister Duncan Howlett, who wrote an essay called 'Sebastian Castellio: Neglected Saint of the Liberal Church', and the Quaker scholar Roland Bainton, who contributed a paper on Castellio to a volume called Persectution and Liberty.

Zweig is blamed even now for Calvin's bad image in Germany.

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