The Literary Essays of Thomas Merton

The Literary Essays of Thomas Merton

The Literary Essays of Thomas Merton

The Literary Essays of Thomas Merton

Synopsis

As wide a following as the late Thomas Merton had while he lived, ever since his tragic accidental death in Bangkok in 1968, there has been a steady upsurge of interest in both his life and writings. A priest and Trappist monk by vocation, his theological works have been instrumental in reforming Western monasticism and in carrying on the religious dialog botanist and West; an enormously productive poet, his poems display an astonishing technical versatility and deeply felt humanity. Merton's stature as a critic, however, was not fully appreciated until the publication in 1981 of the first collection of his distinct literary essays, now available as a paperbo ok.

Excerpt

Following the death of Thomas Merton by accidental electrocution in Bangkok over a decade ago, there has been an enormous upsurge of interest in his life and writings. His own early books are being reissued in new editions, and collections of his essays and letters are beginning to appear both in America and abroad. However, Merton's true stature as a literary critic has yet to be fully appreciated. One reason for this is perhaps due to the fact that a collection of his distinctly literary and critical essays has not up to this time been collected and published in book form. Written for the most part during the last years of his life, these essays were first published in a variety of journals, some well-known, others much less well-known-all nearly inaccessible now. To these there has been added a number of hitherto unpublished pieces. With the publication of this volume it is hoped that a deeper appreciation of Merton's literary talent and critical judgment may be advanced.

Born of artist parents (an American mother and a New Zealander father) in southern France near the Spanish border on January 31, 1915, Merton's early education in France, England, and America was often interrupted by travel with his father after his mother's death. Merton's first inclinations to a literary career can be traced to his juvenile novels while attending the lycée in France and later in his school days at Oakham in Rutland, England, when in 1931 he became editor of the school magazine, The Oakhamian (he was sixteen at the time). Witty drawings and poems contributed by Merton, as well as his short stories on a wide variety of subjects, made The Oakhamian take on a cosmopolitan air under his editorship. He wrote an article describing New York as "The City Without a Soul"; others about Strasbourg Cathedral, an incident on a French train, and a strangely prophetic piece on Hitler and the German presidential elections of 1932.

Following a turbulent year at Cambridge after his father's death, Merton left England for good and came to America to live with his mother's relatives. In 1935, he entered Columbia University and soon became a part of the literary group on campus, serving as art editor of The Jester of Columbia in 1936 (he was editor of The Columbia Yearbook in 1937), with Robert Lax as editor and Ralph Toledano as managing editor. Dur-

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