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Book 3

  1. Berger, John — Ways of Seeing (149 pages)
  2. Vonnegut, Kurt — God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian (72 pages)
  3. Roth, Joseph — The Legend of the Holy Drinker (100 pages)
Page count
321
book cover: The Legend of the Holy Drinker.

The Legend of the Holy Drinker is a revelation. Joseph Roth's last work before he drank himself to death tells the story of a down-on-his-luck drunk living on the banks of the Seine. One spring evening in 1934, an elderly gentleman gives him 200 francs. The only condition attached is that when the drunk, Andreas, is able, he should repay the gift to the statue of St Thérèse de Lisieux at the Chapelle de Sainte Marie des Batignolles. Andreas has every intention of following through, and a series of miracles repeatedly puts him in a position to do so. Somehow, though, every time he is on the verge of paying back his debt, a series of accidents, temptations, and distractions prevents him.

A touching novella, told with compassion and gentle humour, The Legend of the Holy Drinker is fabulous in both senses of the word and left me feeling uplifted.

(While writing this review I discovered an Italian film adaptation (La leggenda del santo bevitore) was made in 1988, directed by Ermanno Olmi and starring Rutger Hauer. It gets positive reviews, so I will be purchasing a copy and, if it is half as good as Roth's novella, I expect it to be a delight.)

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