JESUITS: A Multibiography by Jean Lacouture
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JESUITS: A Multibiography

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A tour de force narrative history that provides readers with detailed and engrossing biographies of several notable Jesuits. French journalist Lacouture (De Gaulle, 1992, etc.) has crafted an original approach to Jesuit history here. Instead of following a traditional, chronological history of the Society of Jesus, he has chosen to provide a ""multibiography"" that emphasizes the contributions of a few innovators, including the movement's founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola. Lacouture has been quixotic in his sampling, choosing occasionally to highlight some obscure, understudied Jesuit in lieu of a more celebrated priest. But despite the eclectic nature of his foci, Lacouture proves he is no dilettante. The result is a nearly perfect blend of stories from various cultures, and the author, a gifted raconteur, is always passionate about his subject matter. He challenges the widely held stereotype that the Society was driven solely by blind obedience to Rome and instead explores the Jesuits' evolving commitments to syncretism and cultural exchange. As the Society founded missions in diverse cultures, Lacouture maintains, it abandoned much of its absolutism in favor of a Christianity that would adapt to its surroundings and ""be all things to all men."" Lacouture traces the development of Jesuit missions in regions as far-flung as Japan, India, and Paraguay and demonstrates a surprisingly profound knowledge of non-European histories. He also reveals some of the ""forgotten"" history of the Jesuit movement, such as the short-lived attempt to establish a sister order in the 16th century. Lacouture's historical reconstructions are greatly enhanced by his prolific use of diaries, memoirs, and letters. That the book is so well-written is pleasantly surprising, since it has been translated and abridged from the bestselling two-volume French edition. Beautifully told, with an occasional dose of sardonic humor, Lacouture's well-crafted ""multibiography"" is destined to become a classic of Jesuit studies.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1887178600
Page count: 560pp
Publisher: Counterpoint--dist. by Publishers Group West