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Fathers and Crows (Seven Dreams #2)

4.29  ·  Rating Details ·  275 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
With the same panoramic vision and mythic sensibility he brought to The Ice-Shirt, William T. Vollmann continues his hugely original fictional history of the clash of Indians and Europeans in the New World. It is 400 years ago, and the ?Black Gowns,? French Jesuit priests, are beginning their descent into the forests of Canada, eagerly seeking to convert the Huron--and cou ...more
Paperback, 990 pages
Published August 1st 1993 by Penguin Books (first published 1992)
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Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
And when are you going to Huronia? Is your ambition as dead as your sex life? Here it is page 403, my plot more or less in place, all destruction finally ready to happen (and what about the poor Jesuits, sidelined again? You’re their friend and this is their book!) -- and you? You count beaver-skins for De Monts! --William the Blind

Fathers and Crows is our Second Dream of the American landscape of a history which is better not to tell, told us by William the Blind, our Dreamer of these landscape
Jan 16, 2013 Geoff rated it it was amazing
Shelves: seven-dreams
where the stream of time opens up and pours into the great endless ocean mist rises through the spangled air like reversed rain (or is that bright brume the souls of the saved soaring to PARADISE?), and indeed thundering clouds are there on earth bellowing from pools where the stream of time commingles with the ocean, so that earth is sky and sky is earth, for if we have come to the end of the stream of time then it must be the end of the world; so we can only ascend toward its source (that is o ...more
"...because what they did they did for love of something, bravely doing what worldly minds must call insane actions. Without them the disasters would probably have happened anyway."

It is a very delicate path to tread - to feel pity, respect and even, at times, admiration, for people whose actions, beliefs and justifications you find abhorrent. WTV has the skill, the intelligence and the compassion to stay beautifully upon that path. I salute his achievement.

The Personal and the Universal

It i
Jun 06, 2011 Hadrian rated it it was amazing
Another astonishing book. The collision of cultures, so wholly alien to each other, and the rippling effects across the vast and forbidding continent. Ornate and intricate and dazzling detail.

I had read a selection of the Jesuit histories for a school project, but I imagine Vollmann has plowed through all 73 volumes, traveled to Canada ten times, and befriended the native women in his bid for research and understanding who the people were. Characters which would too easily be stereotyped are giv
Jack Waters
“This book is dedicated against all dogmatists and their armies. Whoever they are, I cordially wish them a warm stay in Hell.” -- from the author’s dedicatory page.


William the Blind, dictating through William T. Vollmann’s pen, writes as if Dostoevksy’s & Hemingway’s writing were having a ménage à trois with an atlas near the chilly mouth of a constantly-birthed-by-glacial-melt river.

The Second Dream of William The Blind flies Crow-Like(but certainly not in the attenuated vector path
Dec 31, 2012 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: u-s-lit, autographed
The French come to Acadia, to Quebec, to New France. But there are people already there. The People. The People have beaver skins and Paris is fashion. The French have Iron and the People have enemies. Natural trade partners, you’d think. Except, the Iron People also bring smallpox; and they also bring religion. So along with the soldier, the adventurer and the governor come the Black Gowns. How to tell this story, where both sides are certain that they can explain the mysteries of life? The Iro ...more
Nov 26, 2012 Richard rated it it was amazing
Fathers and Crows sat on my shelf, mocking me for about five years after my first attempt. There was even a layer of dust on the top that I had to polish off with a rag. I backtracked to about halfway through because I could barely remember anything from where I'd left off. I'm glad I dove back in – it was incredibly rewarding. Right away the second half seemed much more focused than the first (which probably has more to do with circumstances and my mindset then and now). So, starting again from ...more
Michael William West
Naturally, any book of this size is an invitation to a masochist's ball, and the masochistic, algolagnic fetishization of suffering is the component that requires the scale of Fathers and Crows to be so vast. Repetition is the key to suffering, crawling back to the same point in full knowledge of the pain to come, and so the Black Gowns threw themselves rhythmically back into Canada, auspiciously to convert the variously enraged, savage and ungodly Indian natives, but in reality accumulating sca ...more
Dec 27, 2014 Edward rated it it was amazing
List of Maps
An Accurate Chart of the Stream of Time
Crow-Text: The Jesuit Relations (1610-1791)

--Fathers and Crows

Black Wings (1611-1990)
Orthographic Notes

I Glossary of Personal Names
II Glossary of Orders, Isms, Nations, Races, Hierarchies, Shamans, Tribes and Monsters
III Glossary of Places
IV Glossary of Texts
V Glossary of Calendars, Currencies and Measures
VI General Glossary

A Chronology of the Second Age of Wineland
Sources and a Few Notes
Jul 22, 2007 Chris rated it it was amazing
I've read a lot of books in my time. This is the only one that has ever given me an erection of the heart.

If non-conventional narratives bother you, than you should probably be checking out James Patterson's novel-of-the-week.
Fathers And Crows will take you elsewhere. Vollmann truly understands the grammar of the heart and, as one novelist once wrote me, is "the hurdy-wordy man," bringing 900+ pages to the scene. Sure, his editors beg for cuts, cry for the trees that will be sacrificed. To his c
Jun 14, 2013 Larou added it
The second of Vollmann’s Seven Dreams, Fathers and Crows takes up more than the twice the number of pages than The Ice-Shirt did and deals chiefly with the Jesuits’ attempt at converting the natives of French Canada during the first half of the seventeenth century. While very different both in size and subject matter, there are several structural similarities between the two novels that appear right from the start.

Both are based on a specific source text (this time this is the Jesuit Relations
Louis-Jean Levasseur
First the skin, then the soul. The foundation of Canada starts with the trade with the "savages", and later, their religious conversion. The first encounter of the european with the native peoples began with an exchange of gifts, and from then on, the relation between these peoples has not changed too much, exchanging as they did iron tools and beaver skins for many years. The french power over the native peoples stood on the savage’s dependancy to iron, but to that economic ascendancy was to ad ...more
Alexander Weber
This book is a solid 4.5/5 stars. I can't give it a full 5/5 because, unlike The Rifles, I don't feel as if it transcended the 'novel' and rose above to touch me in an intensely human way. It did touch me, oh certainly. But perhaps it was more history than human emotion. With that one criticism said, let me expound on the glowing qualities of this book.
The history! Holy shit! This book is a textbook made flesh, human burning flesh.
The first section, as with all of the first preludes to the Dream
Robert Corbett
Jan 14, 2008 Robert Corbett rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
This was the quickest I have ever read a Vollman. But then this is the Vollman I would advise beginners to start with, because it has a terrific hook, at least for people interested in colonialism in America, since it concerns the French's efforts in the part of North America that mostly became Nova Scotia and Quebec, but also upstate New York. The story is mostly from the perspective of the French and the Huron, so it reverses our ordinary way of thinking about them. And it is fascinating the a ...more
Mark Sacha
Coming only two years after the conceptually intriguing but formally awkward The Ice-Shirt, Fathers and Crows shows incredible stylistic development. Many of the key elements of the first entry in the series, including mixing of mythologies, modern-day reflections, and invented psychological profiles of historical figures are still present, but are so much more convincingly performed. Take for example the central imagery of the so-called Stream of Time, which is an ecological adaptation of the S ...more
Oct 10, 2013 Paola rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: narrativa
Questo autore mi é stato consigliato da David Foster Wallace, o meglio lui lo nomina quando parla degli autori che ama, che ha amato leggere, quelli che lo facevano sentire meno solo. (cfr. “Un’antidoto contro la solitudine”)
Ho deciso di saperne di più.
La mia libraia disponeva di questo titolo e quindi.
Inizio a leggerlo, non ci metto molto a capire che la faccenda é assai impegnativa datosi che:
- di Vollmann non sospettavo nemmeno l’esistenza, quindi primo giro su internet per saperne di più su
Jun 08, 2015 Ethan rated it it was amazing
What a monumental talent we have in Vollmann: maniac journalist, hypergraphia-driven chronicler of societies' dregs, batshit storyteller, and (best of all) meta-historian with Fathers and Crows standing as the obvious source of Vollmann's immense acclaim and all those initial reviews that began to call his Seven Dreams series as *the* literary project of the 90's and the new "great american novel"-sized undertaking, and understandably so: much larger and more focused than introductory volume The ...more
Jan 03, 2012 Chris rated it really liked it
This is a massive sprawling, weird, occasionally tedious book about the French colonization of Canada. Some people say Vollman needs an editor, but I find the whole point of the novel (and maybe this whole series) is its massive, sprawling, etc scope. It would lose much and gain little edited down to the best 4-500 pages.

At some point, and I am not even going to try and look it up in this tome, so paraphrasing, Vollman writes something like: 'What began the conflict? Bigots say the Iroquois, re
Bryn Hammond
Aug 10, 2012 Bryn Hammond rated it it was amazing
Shelves: imagined-fiction
A documentary-novel on contacts between Savages and French (with English and Dutch) in Canada. It has an exhaustive feel, as if he's put in every contact - whether or not you'd pick them for a novel. He does dives into people's heads for a page here and there, but otherwise, these figures from the Jesuit records seem to be written with an external or objective hand... a bit like a closely-observed documentary, more than a novel. Canada itself, savage Canada, is as real as if filmed, and I, who s ...more
Feb 03, 2015 Max rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In his essay about Sollers, Barthes discusses how pre-Homeric poets would always preface every story they told with a lengthy apology for beginning arbitrarily - because every story necessarily is a continuation of something that came before, and every beginning is more or less a shot in the dark saying "well here's a good of a place as any."

Vollmann makes the opposite apology. His historical novels (and that's exactly what they are, don't let MFA candidates try to convince you these are anythin
James Spencer
Oct 14, 2016 James Spencer rated it it was amazing
WOW! The more I read of Vollman, the more I'm impressed, this being my third novel and second in his Seven Dreams sequence. Primarily historical fiction (in this case about the settling of Canada in the 17th century and the relationship between the Jesuits and the Hurons), Vollman inserts surrealism, magic realism, postmodern techniques, myth and legend, and metafiction to tell a story all his own. Very long, I didn't begrudge a page of it and am looking forward to the Third Dream, Argall. Vollm ...more
Dec 24, 2011 Sean rated it it was amazing
Egads. This book is a madhouse of words. Vollmann must be insane to be able to write like this. A dreamlike, dense excursion into the French Jesuits who came to Canada in the first half of the 1600s and their interactions with the native Hurons, Iroquis, and many other tribes living there. It ain't a pretty picture. It is long and winding and bloody and haunted. Vollmann has a way of not taking sides in his recreations of history, and of getting into the heads of peoples long gone in a way you f ...more
I abandoned the book. Sometimes a challenging novel can be rewarding. It seems that Vollman is a smart man, but refuses the possibility that his readers may not be able to keep up with him, and hardly allows us to come along for the ride by making it possible even (through editing, perhaps?) for us to come with him. For me I came to the point where I saw that the energy I would need to put into the book would far exceed what I could possibly get out of it. And I didn’t want to start to hate read ...more
Jun 17, 2008 Peggy rated it it was amazing
In my opinion this is a book to be read slowly.. over a summer or a winter.. It contains so much!!
The words, poetry.. the history.. the characters.. wow.. this is my first Vollmann, but won't be the last.
almost 1,000 pages. Put back some time to study this one.
Jul 14, 2007 Rusty rated it liked it
Massive, and interesting only 70% of the time, but well worth the effort.
Dec 16, 2015 Joseph rated it it was amazing
A mythical- historical epic about the conquest and colonization of Eastern Canada, that focuses on the French explorers(mainly Champlain), fur traders and missionaries, their encounters with the indigenous tribes, and the customs of those tribes.

This encounter was essentially peaceful for a long time, but not because of altruism from either side. The traders needed the Indians to hunt beaver, so their motivations were commercial and cynical. The Indians' behavior is based on their fascination a
May 25, 2007 Nate marked it as to-read
From Kirkus Reviews
Idiosyncratic, inspired, and convoluted as ever, Vollmann offers the second installment in his seven-part series (Seven Dreams), moving from the Vikings and Vinland of The Ice-Shirt (1990) to the French and their impact on native populations in and around Quebec in the first half of the 17th century. Taking the Iroquois Saint Catherine Tekakwitha (1656-80) as a point of departure, Vollmann launches himself into a turbulent mytho-historico-geographical ``Stream of Time''--which
Justin Kern
Jan 29, 2016 Justin Kern rated it it was amazing
Another one of vollman's "dreams" about the destruction of the native american people. This one takes place in alberta canada, and it's focuses on the Jesuits over from europe, the Iriquois, and the Hurons. This was actually the first of the seven dreams that I read, and at the time I definitely wasn't planning on reading thousands of pages about native americans. I just trusted this author to lead me down an interesting path, and he did.

My favorite part of this dream, as well as some of the oth
Jun 02, 2016 Ohenrypacey rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit, history
William T Vollmann has asked his audience to join him on an ambitious journey, a dream journey, told in seven parts, of the settling of the north american continent by europeans, and the impact of their coming on the native peoples.
Volume II is immense, almost 900 pages retelling the jesuit incursion into Canada in the 17th century. From the earliest days of Champlain and the beaver trade, through the Iroqouis wars on the Huron peoples, the unrelenting decimation of the native culture is retold
David Glines
Feb 17, 2015 David Glines rated it it was amazing
One of the themes is, of course, about how the invading colonial power takes advantage of the native people. But it doesn't portray the Native Americans as very benevolent. It's human nature to be savage, and we are all Savages - could be the subtitle.

It's hard to know who committed the first murder, but after that, the only contact between the civilizations was for barter, beaver, or blood.
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William Tanner Vollmann is an American novelist, journalist, short story writer and essayist. He lives in Sacramento, California with his wife and daughter.

More about William T. Vollmann...

Other Books in the Series

Seven Dreams (6 books)
  • The Ice-Shirt
  • The Rifles
  • Argall: The True Story of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith
  • The Dying Grass: A Novel of the Nez Perce War
  • The Cloud Shirt (extract)

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“But how could he explain anything to them, when they understood good but not goodness, strong but not strength, black but not blackness?

Give us bread! the Savages cried. Heal us!

They were frightened by the consecrated wine, believing that the Black-Gowns drank human blood.

This is the blood of JESUS, said Pere Masse.
Was that a man? they asked.
He was the SON OF GOD, but He became a man to die for us. In memory of his sacrifice, we drink His blood.

At this they drew back and whispered in their language, with many terrified glances. ”
“As surely as the town of Rochelle is Protestant I can see you now becoming impatient. The covers of my book are between your relentless palms. A single hint of insolence on this page, the faintest shine of gloating over all these delays, and you will slam the volume shut - don't claim I can't predict it!” 2 likes
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