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The Song at the Scaffold: A Novel of Horror and Holiness in the Reign of Terror
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The Song at the Scaffold: A Novel of Horror and Holiness in the Reign of Terror

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  316 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
Amid the chaos and horror of the French Revolution, Blanche de la Force, daughter of smug unbeliever, enters a Carmelite convent. Blanche is so timorous that she seems unsuited to the rigors of religious life even at the best of times--and horribly misplaced as the Reign of Terror begins to stain France with the blood of a generation of Christian martyrs. Sister Marie, one ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published July 1st 2001 by Sophia Institute Press (first published 1931)
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Dhanaraj Rajan
What a wonderful coincidence that I read this book immediately after reading C. Milosz' essay collection To Begin Where I Am: Selected Essays!

For C. Milosz was trying to analyse the reasons behind the unimaginable horror surrounding the two World Wars, and the Russian and French Revolutions in his essays. His analysis was that man from the time of Renaissance and Reformation believed only in the nature of man and in his faculty (Reason). Man became the absolute deciding norm of moral values and
Jun 09, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book read more like a dramatized meditation to me than like a full-fledged novel. I am not saying that as a criticism in the least. I read it, almost got absorbed into it, over the course of yesterday evening. It is quite short and to me, the second part was "unrealized" compared to the first part. The story moved back from the personal intensity of the beginning -- the characters and spirituality of Marie de l'Incarnation and young Blanche la Force -- to a more wide-sweep scene of the whol ...more
Kris McGregor
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“The Song at the Scaffold” by Gertrude von le Forte’s is one of the best novella’s…ever! Vivian Dudro, writer and editor at Igantius Press, engages in a wonderful conversation about the work of German author Gertrude von le Forte who was a writer of novels, poems, and essays. A convert to Catholicism in 1926, most of von le Forte work came after her conversion. In 1952 she won the Gottfried-Keller Prize, an esteemed Swiss literary award.

This book was the original inspiration for the opera Dialog
Mar 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A dense novella crammed with ironies because told by an unreliable narrator who relates a ture story from history but the focus of that true story is the fictional representation of an unstable neurotic. The author criticizes both extremes of the French Revolution, the blindness of the aristocrats and the blood-frenzy of the rabble. At the end the author invokes the reader's opinion to meditate on her ironies--whio is the true saint of the novella? It's the story of 16 nuns who were married to M ...more
Jan 23, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Story of the horrors of the 'enlightenment" and age of 'reason'. Began with the guillotine and continues today in abortion clinics worldwide. Nice read with some interesting and all-to-human characters.
Feb 06, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A concise retelling of the historical martyrdom of Carmelite nuns during the Reign of Terror, this focuses on the fearful Blanche de la Force, and the two sisters who try to guide her spiritual path. It is a lovely and sometimes moving glimpse into the encounter between the spiritual and violent political upheaval, but the author takes too much license and adds too much melodrama to an already wrought situation. This may the one case where the opera (the superb Dialogues of the Carmelites) is mo ...more
Dec 29, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of 16 Carmelite nuns guillotined during the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution. Olga Marx's 1933 translation does not hold up well to the passage of time making the book less accessible to the modern reader. A fine, but one-sided, portrayal of the nuns' story, their motivation, and faith. Interesting use of a fictional character, the nun Blanche, to contrast the fear an average person would feel in this situation with the conviction and courage of these historical martyrs.
Oct 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Song at the Scaffold takes place during the Reign of Terror in 18th Century France. It is based on a true story of a convent of Carmelite nuns who accept martyrdom for God’s glory.

The character of Blanche had a very intense relationship with fear and appears to suffer from some form of mental illness. Her fate takes an interesting path.

The book explores human nature and is very well written.

Anyone with an interest in French history will enjoy this novel.
Jul 02, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Attracted by the idea of a woman crippled by fear who learns to face the world with God. Stayed a bit too long in the emotional and not enough background. It is an interesting topic to mull over though..making a stand and eventually sacrifice for God even when offered an out as the character is in this one. I found the character hardly developed enough and probably would have made an excellent novel with about 200 more pages!
I love the story behind this book, but the book itself fell a little flat. Perhaps because it is told from a point-of-view that is pretty detached from everything that is going on and also because the characters do not hold much personality. Still, I am even more intrigued in the Carmelite nuns who were the last victims of the French Revolution.
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Gertrud von Le Fort was a German writer of novels, poems, and essays. She came from a Protestant background, but converted to Catholicism in 1926. Most of Gertrud's writings come after this conversion. In 1952 she won the Gottfried-Keller-Preis award.

Her novella Die Letzte am Schafott (The Last on the Scaffold) was the original basis for the opera Dialogues of the Carmelites by Francis Poulenc. Sh
More about Gertrud von le Fort...