No less a critic than Clifton Fadiman called The Devil Rides Outside a "staggering novel." The first novel of John H. Griffin, it written during the author's decade of blindness following an injury suffered during the closing days of World War II. As Time Magazine described it, The Devil Rides Outside "has some things relatively rare in U.S. letters: energy, earnestness and unashamed religious fervor." Written as a diary, the novel relates the intellectual and spiritual battles of a young American musicologist who is studying Gregorian chant in a French Benedictine monastery. Even though he is not Catholic, he must live like the monks, sleeping in a cold stone cell, eating poor food, sharing latrine duties. His dreams rage with memories of his Paris mistress; his days are spent being encouraged by the monks to seek God. He takes up residence outside the monastery after an illness, but he finds the village a slough of greed and pettiness and temptation. Indeed, as the French proverb says, "the devil rides outside the monastery walls."
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September 30, 2010
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