The Journals of Thomas Merton, Vol. II: 1941-1952
Email this review


 A close-up of Merton's intimate life during his early years as a Trappist monk. Not long after his conversion to the Catholic faith, Merton left New York City's Greenwich Village and his post at Columbia University on a quest that culminated in his entering the Cistercian Abbey of Gethsemane in rural Kentucky. Here we have remnants of Merton's lost noviciate journal, which record the impressions of his first five months at the monastery; a brief memoir of Abbot Frederick Dunne; and a long journal covering the years 194652, extracts from which were published in 1953 as The Sign of Jonas, but which we can now read for the first time exactly as Merton wrote it. The previously unpublished passages contain the monk's most personal soliloquies and prayers, and they also deal with his conflicts surrounding the publication of The Seven Storey Mountain, which brought him worldwide fame just as he was seeking to enter more deeply into a hidden life of prayer and silence. We are given new light on his thoughts of leaving Gethsemane for the solitude of the Carthusian Order and on how the writings of St. Louis de Montfort enabled him to develop a profound devotion for the Virgin Mary. Whether he is recording his reactions to the recent publication of Dylon Thomas's poems or his thoughts at the time of his priestly ordination, Merton writes with an amazing immediacy, as if he were talking to a friend. These journals are full of details of Trappist life that have largely passed into oblivion since the 1960s, such as the severe manual work and the sign language. The single-mindedness of the writings strongly evokes an era when American Catholics were eager to show that they, no less than Europeans, could appropriate the Church's ascetic and contemplative tradition. Essential reading for Merton fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-06-065476-7
Page count: 528pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1995


NonfictionTHE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN by Thomas Merton
by Thomas Merton
NonfictionDANCING IN THE WATER OF LIFE by Thomas Merton
by Thomas Merton
NonfictionSTRIVING TOWARDS BEING by Thomas Merton
by Thomas Merton