The Cloister: James Carroll with Mary Gordon
Where: New York Public Library—Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
476 Fifth Ave.
917-275-6975 Price: Free
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The latest novel from the National Book Award–winning author bridges midcentury Manhattan with twelfth-century Paris, united by the epic love story of Abelard and Héloïse.
Two relationships divided by eight centuries, one a passionate and forbidden love affair, the other an unlikely friendship charged by the horrors of the recent past—at their centers questions of faith, identity, love, and honesty that transcend time.
Michael Kavanagh, a parish priest in Inwood, and Rachel Vedette, an expat Jewish Parisian, meet unexpectedly in the Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum’s center for medieval European art, where Vedette works as a docent. Plagued by a “perpetual inner bleakness,” Kavanagh recognizes in Vedette—who has lived through the Nazi occupation of France—a spirit kindred in its darkness. She slowly reveals parts of her past to Kavanagh, particularly the work of her late father on the life of Peter Abelard that she helped to research. A professor at the Sorbonne, her father had come to discover Abelard to hold profoundly forward-thinking and positive views on Jews and Judaism. The complexities of Abelard’s story and the horrors hidden in that of Vedette’s torment Kavanagh as he himself wrestles with his place in the Church and what life he might have had outside it. Woven into their narrative is a reimagining of the legendary love affair between Abelard and Héloïse, intertwining the past in the present as all four of the characters encounter the brutalities of prejudice and intolerance.
James Carroll discusses this novel, his twelfth, with novelist, critic, and Barnard professor Mary Gordon.Buy tickets/get more info now