THE DISCOVERY OF THE GRAIL by Andrew Sinclair

THE DISCOVERY OF THE GRAIL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A muddled, erratic glimpse of the Holy Grail from veteran Grail chaser Sinclair (Jerusalem: The Endless Crusade, 1995). The author seems to assume that, much like himself, his reader has extensive prior knowledge of Grail history. In fact, Sinclair doesn’t even clarify what the Grail is until the third chapter—it’s a bowl or dish “that was believed in the Middle Ages to have contained or touched the blood of Jesus Christ.” Also, unfortunately, he romanticizes Grail lore, often failing to distinguish between historical fact and the stuff of legends. Nevertheless, he aspires to trace the Grail’s impact on various European civilizations. Sinclair argues that the Italians employed the Grail in art to fuse Christian and pagan elements, and the French sang of its chivalric role in l’amour. The most intriguing (and underdeveloped) claim throughout these chapters is that the Grail’s hidden message, which concerned the individual’s pursuit of God, was better received in some cultures than in others—for example, the nationalistic, militant Spaniards of the Inquisition rejected its individualist elements. In the book’s last third, Sinclair examines some of the 20th century’s responses to the Grail. (The Nazis seized on some aspects of the myth and its epic imagery; Himmler even constructed a Round Table at the Westphalian college where secret police were trained.) The final chapter degenerates into a vague, aimless exploration of modern psychology’s emphasis on the individual, culminating in unhelpful generalizations about how 1960s “flower children” demonstrate the essence of the Grail. Alas, this inchoate volume can’t really decide what it wants to be: a mythical quest for the Grail or cultural history. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-7867-0604-X
Page count: 320pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1998




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