Ryan Lieske's Reviews > The Nun

The Nun by Denis Diderot
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's review
Aug 09, 11

Published over two hundred years ago, I can only imagine what kind of uproar and scandal it must've caused, because it's still pretty caustic and racy, even by today's standards. Telling the sad story of a young woman forced into a convent, Diderot takes aim at organized religion and the social stigmas of his time. The violence, both physical and emotional, is brutal. And Diderot doesn't shy away from frank depictions of lesbianism. While on the surface the book is certainly aiming to shock, there's a lot going on beneath the surface, particularly a strong, feminist polemic that was centuries ahead of its time. Though certainly anti-religious, it's never anti-God, which I found refreshing. Yes, the ending does feel a bit rushed, and at times, the prose does get a bit dense. But it maintains strong momentum and characterization throughout. Von Trier's "Dancer in the Dark" came to mind a lot while reading this. I would definitely love to see what he could do with this material.
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