A Canticle for Leibowitz

Has anyone read this book by Walter M. Miller? It’s a bit hard to get, but the premise sounds interesting, that is, a post apocalyptic society develops and is followed through time. Supposedly it’s a classic, though I really haven’t heard too much about it from any of my “literary” friends. Can anyone give me a recommendation?
Amazon Link

A Canticle for Leibowitz is a terrific book. It is a biblical allegory told as a post-apocalyptic tale and the way he weaves the bible into the world he creates is fascinating (by the way, this is coming from an atheist, not someone trying to convert ya).

It centres around a monestary in the American southwest. Part one is six hundred years after the war and is essentially a dark ages. Part two is twelve hundred years after and is a rennaisance and part three is eighteen hundred years after and is a new modern era.

I won’t say more because it’s one of those books that’s best left to discover on your own.

It’s one of my favourite books. I highly reccomend it.

I read it about 15 odd years ago and loved it. I just re-read it and it holds up today. It’s not an easy read per se and it took me
awhile to get into the flow but once I did, I was hooked.

Is it hard to read? I mean, I read a lot, and in general I like reading complex subject material as well as complex writing, but I read one review that said I that in order to fully enjoy this book I’d have to know Latin pretty well, which sadly, I don’t.

It’s one of my favorite books as well, and I also strongly recommend it.

Another “go for it” vote here. I first read this book a few years ago and thouroughly enjoyed it.

Zev Steinhardt

But I enjoyed the radio drama.

There is a sequel, I heard it isnt as good.


Radio drama? Sequel? Please explain as I’ve heard of niether of these developments.

Yes, there is a sequel. It came out about two years ago. The book is Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, also by Walter Miller. I have not read it.

Zev Steinhardt

  • A terrific book.

  • You don’t need to know Latin.

  • “Biblical allegory” is a bit too strong. It’s a novel with religious/spiritual themes.

  • As much as I loved the book, I just couldn’t make it through the sequel. In a word, “boring”.

Second on the “latin is nice but not necessary.”

I agree completely that Canticle is a singular and extraordinary book. I also recommend it unreservedly.

It’s not an easy read. But it’s no Finnegan’s Wake, either . . . :wink:

It’s one of the great classics of science fiction. Not even as difficult as Faulkner, just take your time. Miller wrote it as a “pennance” for his part in the bombing of the monestary at Monte Casino in WWII. The difficulty in the writing is more of the traditional variety than stream of consciousness. Names will have multiple meanings and allegories.


(woot! you can buy it on CD!)


One of my all time favorite books, and certainly the best, post-apocalypse type book I’ve ever read.

When I first read it I had absolutely no Latin, and it didn’t make a hoot of difference.

The sequel, published (correct me if I’m wrong) not very long ago, and post-humanously, was a decent book, but was very different than Canticle and was, IMO not nearly as good.

Yes to the first and yes to the second. You may lose a bit of understanding if you are not Catholic, however, but it certainly didn’t impair my enjoyment.

Miller did die before finishing the sequel, so Terry Bisson, a great writer in his own reqard, was given the task of writing the conclusion. I once had the great pleasure of sitting with Bisson and a couple of others in a a bar at a con and having him talk about the process. He said that even though Miller did not give an explicit ending, the logic of the book was such that he “just took the car home and parked it in the driveway.”

P.S. Miller was also a well-regarded short fiction writer in his day and put out two collections: The View from the Stars, short stories, and Conditionally Human, novellas. These are way out of print today, but Amazon does list*
The Best of Walter M. Miller Jr*
, a 14-story compilation.

P.P.S. “post-humanously” is such a great word, I may start using it.

As a James Joyce groupie I just have to point out that there’s no apostrophe in the title of Finnegans Wake.
Sorry, you can carry on with your conversation now.

As has been said, “A Canticle For Liebowitz” is a remarkable book.

About not knowing much Latin; that’s not really something that should stop you enjoying the book. I found that a lot of it, I could roughly translate from context and some semi-recognisable words. If that fails you, you’ve always got some message board or other that should be able to give you a hint. What’s its name again…I can’t quite recall, but some really smart people hang out there :wink:

Canticle is one of the best post-apocalypse books you’ll find, and it’s thought-provoking. It also has a funny-as-hell side; some of the byplay is terrifically well observed and raises a grin.

Give it a go, you won’t regret it.

And as one who’s avoided that particular book like a smallpox-ridden horseblanket, I did not realize that. Huh. Somethin’ new every day. :slight_smile:

I have had the book for about 5 years now and have still yet to read it. I had an excellent history profesor in college (he drew inspiration for his lectures from Burke’s Connections serieses, so you really saw how ideas influenced each other). Anyway, he suggested we all read it as he thought it very closely parallelled what happened in history.

I will read it one of these days…honest. Bu tit is kinda hard to get into.

Heh. I had to contribute to the endorsements of this book, and mention the I think the only reason it found its way into my house was because my parents probably thought it was about the canonization process of a real saint.

The only Latin I needed was my altar-boy Latin.

Fiat Homo = Let there be Man
Fiat Lux = Let there be light
Fiat Voluntas Tua = Thy will be done