“The Kingdom,” by Emmanuel Carrère

KingdomCarrereMichael Dirda at The Washington Post:

Emmanuel Carrère — one of France’s most admired contemporary writers — has long been drawn to fanatics and crazies. “The Adversary” sought to understand a man who, out of a sense of shame, killed his parents, wife, children and even his dog. In “I Am Alive and You Are Dead,” Carrère turned his attention to the visionary, frequently delusional science fiction novelist Philip K. Dick. “Limonov” tracked the life of Eduard Limonov, poet, memoirist and expert tailor, onetime butler to a New York millionaire and, after returning to his native Russia, founder of the extremist National Bolshevik Party.

Now, in “The Kingdom,” Carrère directs the spotlight on his own urbane, narcissistic self: Can a chic Parisian intellectual also be a Christian?

The result is an intense, compulsively readable book about the mystery of faith, seen from both an autobiographical and historical perspective. In it, Carrère depicts his spiritual journey and attendant confusions with a self-accusatory honesty that recalls both Saint Augustine’s “Confessions” and Dostoevsky’s “Notes From Underground.” But that’s just the beginning. He also speculates about the composition of the Acts of the Apostles and the four Gospels, proffering heterodox interpretations that aren’t just novel but novelistic. As Robert Graves reinterpreted ancient myth as a celebration of the suppressed cult of “the White Goddess,” so Carrère detects throughout much of the New Testament the covert presence of Luke, the Macedonian doctor who became a disciple of Paul.

more here.