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Testament of Mary

The Testament of Mary

They appear more often now, both of them, and on every visit they seem more impatient with me and with the world. There is something hungry and rough in them, a brutality boiling in their blood, which I have seen before and can smell as an animal that is being hunted can smell. But I am not being hunted now. Not anymore. I am being cared for, and questioned softly, and watched. They think that I do not know the elaborate nature of their desires. But nothing escapes me now except sleep. Sleep escapes me. Maybe I am too old to sleep. Or there is nothing further to be gained from sleep. Maybe I do not need to dream, or need to rest. Maybe my eyes know that soon they will be closed for ever. I will stay awake if I have to. I will come down these stairs as the dawn breaks, as the dawn insinuates its rays of light into this room. I have my own reasons to watch and wait. Before the final rest comes this long awakening. And it is enough for me to know that it will end.

They think I do not understand what is slowly growing in the world; they think I do not see the point of their questions and do not notice the cruel shadow of exasperation that comes hooded in their faces or hidden in their voices when I say something vague or foolish, something which leads us nowhere. When I seem not to remember what they think I must remember. They are too locked into their vast and insatiable needs and too dulled by the remnants of a terror we all felt then to have noticed that I remember everything. Memory fills my body as much as blood and bones.

I like it that they feed me and pay for my clothes and protect me. And in return I will do for them what I can, but no more than that. Just as I cannot breathe the breath of another or help the heart of someone else to beat or their bones not to weaken or their flesh not to shrivel, I cannot say more than I can say. And I know how deeply this disturbs them and it would make me smile, this earnest need for foolish anecdotes or sharp, simple patterns in the story of what happened to us all, except that I have forgotten how to smile. I have no further need for smiling. Just as I had no further need for tears. There was a time when I thought that I had, in fact, no tears left, that I had used up my store of tears, but I am lucky that foolish thoughts like this never linger, are quickly replaced by what is true. There are always tears if you need them enough. It is the body that makes tears. I no longer need tears and that should be a relief, but I do not seek relief, merely solitude and some grim satisfaction which comes from the certainty that I will not say anything that is not true.

Of the two men who come, one was there with us until the end. There were moments then when he was soft, ready to hold me and comfort me as he is ready now to scowl impatiently when the story I tell him does not stretch to whatever limits he has ordained. Yet I can see signs of that softness still and there are times when the glow in his eyes returns before he sighs and goes back to his work, writing out the letters one by one that make words he knows I cannot read, which recount what happened on the hill and the days before and the days that followed. I have asked him to read the words aloud to me but he will not. I know that he has written of things that neither he saw nor I saw. I know that he has also given shape to what I lived through and he witnessed, and that he has made sure that these words will matter, that they will be listened to.

I remember too much; I am like the air on a calm day as it holds itself still, letting nothing escape. As the world holds its breath, I keep memory in.

So when I told him about the rabbits I was not telling him something that I had half forgotten and merely remembered because of his insistent presence. The details of what I told him were with me all the years in the same way as my hands or my arms were with me. On that day, the day he wanted details of, the day he wanted me to go over and over for him, in the middle of everything that was confused, in the middle of all the terror and shrieking and the crying out, a man came close to me who had a cage with a huge angry bird trapped in it, the bird all sharp beak and indignant gaze; the wings could not stretch to their full width and this confinement seemed to make the bird frustrated and angry. It should have been flying, hunting, swooping on its prey.

The man also carried a bag, which I gradually learned was almost half full of live rabbits, little bundles of fierce and terrorized energy. And during those hours on that hill, during the hours that went more slowly than any other hours, he plucked the rabbits one by one from the sack and edged them into the barely opened cage. The bird went for some part of their soft underbelly first, opening the rabbit up until its guts spilled out, and then of course its eyes. It is easy to talk about this now because it was a mild distraction from what was really going on, and it is easy to talk about it too because it made no sense. The bird did not seem to be hungry, although perhaps it suffered from a deep hunger that even the live flesh of writhing rabbits could not satisfy. The cage became half full of half-dead, wholly uneaten rabbits exuding strange squealing sounds. Twitching with old bursts of life. And the man’s face was all bright with energy, there was a glow from him, as he looked at the cage and then at the scene around him, almost smiling with dark delight, the sack not yet empty.

 • • • 

By that time we had spoken of other things, including the men who played with dice close to where the crosses were; they played for his clothes and other possessions, or for no special reason. One of these men I feared as much as the strangler who arrived later. This first man was the one among all those who came and went during the day who was most alert to me, most menacing, the one who seemed most likely to want to know where I would go when it was over, the one most likely to be sent to bring me back. This man who followed me with his eyes seemed to work for the group of men with horses, who sometimes appeared to be watching from the side. If anyone knows what happened that day and why, then it is this man who played with dice. It might be easier if I said that he comes in dreams but he does not, nor does he haunt me as other things, or other faces, haunt me. He was there, that is all I have to say about him, and he watched me and he knew me, and if now, after all these years, he were to arrive at this door with his eyes narrowed against the light and his sandy-coloured hair gone grey and his hands still too big for his body, and his air of knowledge and self-possession and calm, controlling cruelty, and with the strangler grinning viciously behind him, I would not be surprised. But I would not last long in their company. Just as my two friends who visit are looking for my voice, my witness, this man who played dice, and the strangler, or others like them, must be looking for my silence. I will know them if they come and it should hardly matter now, since the days left are few, but I remain, in my waking time, desperately afraid of them.

Compared to them, the man with the rabbits and the hawk was oddly harmless; he was cruel, but uselessly so. His urges were easy to satisfy. Nobody paid any attention to him except me, and I did because I, perhaps alone of those who were there, paid attention to every single thing that moved in case I might be able to find someone among those men with whom I could plead. And also so that I could know what they might want from us when it was over, and more than anything else so that I could distract myself, even for a single second, from the fierce catastrophe of what was happening.

They have no interest in my fear and the fear all those around me felt, the sense that there were men waiting who had been told to round us up too when we sought to move away, that there seemed no possibility that we would not be held.

The second one who comes has a different way of making his presence felt. There is nothing gentle about him. He is impatient, bored and in control of things. He writes too, but with greater speed than the other, frowning, nodding in approval at his own words. He is easy to irritate. I can annoy him just by moving across the room to fetch a dish. It is hard to resist the temptation sometimes to speak to him although I know that my very voice fills him with suspicion, or something close to disgust. But he, like his colleague, must listen to me, that is what he is here for. He has no choice.

I told him before he departed that all my life when I have seen more than two men together I have seen foolishness and I have seen cruelty, but it is foolishness that I have noticed first. He was waiting for me to tell him something else and he sat opposite me, his patience slowly ebbing away, as I refused to return to the subject of his desires: the day our son was lost and how we found him and what was said. I cannot say the name, it will not come, something will break in me if I say the name. So we call him “him,” “my son,” “our son,” “the one who was here,” “your friend,” “the one you are interested in.” Maybe before I die I will say the name or manage on one of those nights to whisper it but I do not think so.

He gathered around him, I said, a group of misfits, who were only children like himself, or men without fathers, or men who could not look a woman in the eye. Men who were seen smiling to themselves, or who had grown old when they were still young. Not one of you was normal, I said, and I watched him push his plate of half-eaten food towards me as though he were a child in a tantrum. Yes, misfits, I said. My son ... --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Relié .

Revue de presse

“Tóibín is at his lyrical best in The Testament of Mary, a beautiful and daring work…it takes its power from the surprises of its language, its almost shocking characterization, its austere refusal of consolation.” (Mary Gordon The New York Times Book Review)

“[An] exquisite novella…Tóibín gives a familiar story startling intimacy.” (The New Yorker)

“A heartfelt, powerful work.” (Sam Sacks The Wall Street Journal)

“Dramatic and poetic…A powerful, devastating story.” (Ron Charles The Washington Post)

“Lovely, understated and powerfully sad, The Testament of Mary finally gives the mother of Jesus a chance to speak. And, given that chance, she throws aside the blue veil of the Madonna to become wholly, gloriously human.” (Annalisa Quinn NPR)

“Mary—silent, obedient, observant—has echoed down two millennia, cementing a potent ideal in the Western imagination. Now the masterful Irish writer Colm Tóibín puts a jackhammer to the cozy, safe, Christmas-card version in The Testament of Mary.” (Karen R. Long Cleveland Plain Dealer)

“A slim, grave, exquisitely emotional book…The Testament of Mary is a spellbinding, surprisingly reverent book.” (Jeff Giles Entertainment Weekly)

“Tóibín applies a Joycean ruthlessness…Imagining himself into Mary’s interior life is his boldest jump yet.” (Hermione Lee The New York Review of Books)

“Tóibín’s intimate approach make Mary feel more credible and human…The result, The Testament of Mary, feels true.” (Claire Cameron The Millions)

“Tóibín suffuses the story with a sense of mystery and makes the reader feel (perhaps as never before) the tragedy of the crucifixion.” (Macy Halford Buzzfeed)

“A deeply, if at times painfully, human portrait of Mary, tearing asunder the robes of red and blue that envelop her in paintings and sculptures.” (Michael O’Loughlin America magazine)

“With this masterly novella, Tóibín has finally tackled the subject of Christianity—and he has done so with a vengeance…Nowhere in this beguiling and deeply intelligent, moving work is Mary’s attention to detail more instrumental (and more like a novelist’s) than in her account of her son’s death…In a single passage—and in a rendition, furthermore, of one of the most famous passages of western literature—Tóibín shows how the telling and the details are all-important.” (Robert Collins Sunday Times (UK))

“[A] monumental achievement…equally powerful and poignant whether it’s read by one who espouses or eschews the New Testament…A tender, soul-rending exploration of a mother’s mourning; a searing, stunning work.” (Leyla Sanai The Independent (UK))

“The Testament of Mary is an important and persuasive book: Tóibín's weary Mary, sceptical and grudging, reads as far more true and real than the saintly perpetual virgin of legend. And Tóibín is a wonderful writer: as ever, his lyrical and moving prose is the real miracle.” (Naomi Alderman Observer (UK))

“There is a profound ache throughout this little character study, a steely determination coupled with an unbearable loss. Although it has some insightful things to say about religion and the period—the descriptions of the Crucifixion are visceral—it has a universal message about the nature of loss. ‘I can tell you now, when you say he redeemed the world, I will say that it was not worth it. It was not worth it.’” (Stuart Kelly Scotland on Sunday)

“This novel is the Virgin's version of the life of Christ. After a lifetime listening to everyone else's versions of that life, she is angry and frustrated because they are all questionable.” (John Spain Irish Independent)

“A flawless work, touching, moving and terrifying…” (Linda Grant The New Statesman (UK))

“Reading this perfect little novella is like watching someone light a candle inside a lantern.” (The Age (Australia))

“A stunning interpretation that is as beautiful in its presentation as it is provocative in its intention.” (Booklist)

“[A] poignant reimagining of the last days of Christ.” (Publishers Weekly)

“[The Testament of Mary] builds to a provocative climax, one that is as spiritually profound as its prose is plainspoken…A work suffused with mystery and wonder.” (Kirkus Reviews) --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Relié .

Détails sur le produit

  • CD: 3 pages
  • Editeur : Simon & Schuster Audio; Édition : Unabridged (10 septembre 2013)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 1442363479
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442363472
  • Dimensions du produit: 13 x 2 x 14,9 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 222.340 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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Par Eline Rootsaert le 18 octobre 2013
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
A little jewel of literature, rightfully shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize: a heartbreaking monologue of a desperate mother loosing her grownup child to extremism. Miracles are mirages and should be kept in the intimacy of longing.

NL: Het testament van Maria: een literair juweeltje en terecht genomineerd voor de Booker 2013, een hartverscheurende monoloog van een wanhopige moeder die haar 'grootgeworden' kind ziet teloorgaan aan extremisme en aan fantoommirakels.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 414 commentaires
119 internautes sur 127 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Mary As Bitter Mourner 24 janvier 2013
Par Anne Mills - Publié sur
Format: Relié
A powerful imagining of how the death of Jesus might have been experienced by his mother -- if in fact his mother was a Judean peasant woman in the first century of the Roman Empire, and not the Queen of Heaven. This Mary is old, she is bitter, and she is very human.

The tale is told by Mary in her old age, living out her life in a house in Ephesus, where two disciples try to get her to remember Jesus life and death as they want to have it remembered. Mary, however, remembers it differently. The story focusses on Jesus' last days and on his death, and Mary does not see this as a glorious event that opens the way to redemption. Or, if Jesus' death was the way to universal redemption, she does not think that her son's agony was worth it. Moreover, her own humanity intrudes into the story that came to prevail. This Mary fled Golgotha in fear for her life, and suffers guilt for that. What she longs for is the long ago, when her son was small and safe, and her husband was with her.

Based on the spread of ratings here and on Librarything, people either like this book a lot, or dislike it intensely. For a believer, it would be hard to like. For a non-believer, it is a moving and beautifully written story of what Mary's experience -- as a mother and a woman in her time and place -- might have been like.
102 internautes sur 129 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Mary, did you know... 1 juin 2013
Par Jean E. Pouliot - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle
Caution: spoilers ahead.

You can write a book that reimagines the story of a beloved hero or heroine, that turns myths about them on their head, and yet provides deeper insights into their character. Then again, you can write a book that merely inverts everything that you know about such a character, turns their virtues into failings and teaches us nothing about them. "Testament of Mary" belongs in the latter category.

In ToM, Colm Toibin gives us a scant 81 pages that are long on Mary's self-pitying reflections about her life, short on insights about her and Jesus, dismissive about Jesus's mission and full of bizarre details and anachronisms. Toibin's conceit is that Mary was traumatized by the crucifixion of her son. No doubt. But since there is no resurrection in his book, just followers claiming one, there is little to solace her grief and pain. She inhabits Ephesus, lonely among those who do not speak her language, enduring visits by her male keepers, and loitering around pagan temples. Mostly, she mopes and complains, knowing that her real and ordinary life is being transformed by those who wants to make her son into something she knows he was not.

The Jesus that Mary describes in ToM is a miracle worker, to be sure. He raises the dead, changes water to wine and walks on water. But his mother is unimpressed. To her, Jesus is a pompous jerk who likes to talk, "his voice all false and his tone all stilted, and I could not bear to hear him." He pals around with rabble - "a group of misfits, who were only children like himself, or men without fathers, or men who could not look a woman in the eye. Men who were seen smiling to themselves, or who had grown old when they were still young." His teaching are the late-night ramblings of fools. "When my son would insist on silence and begin to address them as though they were a crowd." This Mary not only seems to hate what happened to Jesus, but seems to hate her son as well.

Unbelievebly, she prays to the many-breasted goddess Artemis, and has a silver idol of her in her living quarters. Her male guardians - it sounds like John and Luke - keep trying to foist their theological beliefs about Jesus on her. She will have none of it. In spite of her, they write a gospel about Jesus that is full of lies. She scoffs at their claims that by his death he saved the world. "When you say that he redeemed the world, I will say that it was not worth it." Holy Mother of God, indeed!

With so much material on the market about the world of 1st century Israel, Toibin's errors and anachronisms are unforgiveable. His homes have kitchens, at a time when food preparation was an outdoor activity. Lazarus is buried in the ground, not in a rock tomb. To Toibin, a caravanserai is a moving group of travelers, when in actuality it is a hostel for travelers. Bizarrely, he has Christ pushing and pulling his cross down the street in an hour-long procession to Golgotha. His trial of Jesus is pre-staged, with "everyone" knowing how it will play out days before the arrest. And the idea of Mary, a devout Jew, praying to an idol is just ludicrous. At the very least, it demands an explanation that never came.

Any interest in "The Testament of Mary" is a testament to the iconoclastic appetite of moderns to deal with the religion by rejecting everything about it. Christian stories are made tame and dismissable by claiming, without evidence or thought, that they are based on lies. There is no God, Jesus was just another misguided religious fanatic and the Church is only a place for pedophiles and pinheads. This I know, for Old Mary told us so.

Luckily, dealing with the Christian scriptures is not a binary exercise - you don't have to accept them at face value or reject them wholesale. Mary can be an inspiring and even graced figure while allowing some poetic and symbolic latitude to the Bible's and the Church's otherworldly depiction of her. Toibin may see himself as adding to the conversation about Mary. But his book betrays a desire to discredit her, the son she bore and the Church that grew around his memory and continued presence in the lives of believers.
138 internautes sur 176 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
'Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh...' 20 octobre 2012
Par FictionFan - Publié sur
Format: Relié
This short novella is an amazingly powerful account of a mother's love and grief for her son. The fact that that son happens to be, perhaps, the Son of God is secondary. Beautifully written and with some wonderful, often poetic, imagery, Tóibín shows us Mary as a woman who lives each day with guilt and pain that she couldn't stop the events that led her son to the cruel martyrdom of the cross.

As Jesus' followers encourage her to embellish her story to tie in with the legend they are beginning to create, Mary feels that she must tell, even if only once, the true story of her involvement in these momentous events. We see her cynicism and doubt about the miracles attributed to her son; her dislike, contempt even, for those followers who seem intent on feeding his ego, who seem to be provoking his martyrdom to serve their own ends. And most of all we come to understand and almost to share her guilt and fear.

Emotional, thought-provoking, at points harrowing, this book packs more punch in its 104 pages than most full-length novels. Its very shortness emphasises Mary's driven urgency to tell her tale before her chance is gone. Despite the subject matter, it will appeal to lovers of great writing of any faith or none - this story is first and foremost about humanity. Highly recommended.
57 internautes sur 73 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Boring, Lifeless, Without Character 1 janvier 2013
Par Susan B. Goetz - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle
The writing in this book is monotonous, with the same phrases used over and over again. Take out the repeating phrases and this little 90+ page book would drop down to 50. The author never manages to create a real person with whom one could connect in any way. I kept reading on, however, hoping that something would entice me. The book was boring, simply dull.

I have no idea how it could have received so many positive reviews. When I arrived at the end, I thought "This is it? I've been waiting for it to begin." If Toiban thought he was presenting anything provocative, as others have suggested, I would have to strongly disagree. The character of Mary is not mentioned often in the Gospels, so we know very little of her. By imprinting his own flowing consciousness on this character, the only thing apparent here is an angry man projecting his own rage on a character from history (mythical or not).

There is nothing redeeming about this book. It would not even be worth reading if it were a free book. Skip this one and try ANYTHING else. For the record, in case those reading this review brush it off as some Catholic despising this depiction of Mary, forget it. I am not in this category. This is just one really bad book. I regret spending one cent on it!
16 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
interesting idea, but falls short of delivery 12 août 2013
Par K. Kennedy - Publié sur
Format: Relié
"The Testament of Mary" by Colm Toibin is the story of Mary's life shortly before Jesus' crucifixion, and then her life afterward. It is really just the story of an older woman living with life's regrets and sorrows, and the legacy of what a child of hers had done--just like many mothers over the centuries. Is this a great book? No, but it does make the reader wonder what her life was like, since the Christian "spin" over the centuries has focused on her virtues, as opposed to her life. I do agree, however, with the other reviewers who say that the characters are not fleshed out very well. The book is an interesting idea--it just doesn't meet its potential.
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