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The Diary of a Country Priest

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  2,271 ratings  ·  286 reviews
In this classic Catholic novel, Bernanos movingly recounts the life of a young French country priest who grows to understand his provincial parish while learning spiritual humility himself. Awarded the Grand Prix for Literature by the Academie Francaise, The Diary of a Country Priest was adapted into an acclaimed film by Robert Bresson. "A book of the utmost sensitiveness ...more
Paperback, 312 pages
Published December 17th 2001 by Da Capo Press (first published 1936)
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Ahmad Sharabiani
Journal d'un curé de campagne = Diary of a Country Priest, Georges Bernanos

The Diary of a Country Priest is a 1936 novel by the French writer Georges Bernanos.

The story is set in Ambricourt in northern France, where a young, newly appointed priest (Claude Laydu) shows up in the rural French community of Ambricourt, where he joins the community's clergy.

But the locals don't take kindly to the priest, and his ascetic ways and unsociable demeanor make him an outcast.

During Bible studies at the n
Dhanaraj Rajan
Spiritual Classic. Catholic Classic. Very Sublime.

Will try to write a lengthy review later.

An Attempt at a Lengthy Review:

I titled it as an attempt, because I am very much certain that I will not be able to express what transpired in me as I read this novel.

I agree with my Goodreads Friend, Cathy in defining this novel as a 'deceptively quiet book' and that seems to be in fact very apt.

On the surface, it looks like
Deceptively quiet book which starts off very slowly; though I knew it had to be going somewhere, it is easy to see why some readers miss its depths—I stopped and started it several times myself. And then...!

The gist of the story is an inexperienced, young priest arrives at his first parish, a little place out in the country and begins to keep a diary. We also learn he is poor, devout, idealistic and ascetic. None of these traits particularly endear him to his parishioners. He seems to have but o
Nov 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The French are in equal parts anti-clerical and devout. Georges Bernanos and Francois Mauriac are excellent examples of the latter tendency. This is the second or third time I have read The Diary of a Country Priest -- and each time I find it has rocked my world.

There is a kind of imaginative religious novel in which a saintly joyful figure moves from strength to strength until he or she is ascended bodily into the heavens. Bernanos is not like that. His unnamed priest, who writes in the first p
Sep 20, 2009 rated it did not like it
I thought this was one of those books that comes with a “guarantee.” But of course there is no such thing. Still, I’d read only glowing reviews and boy was I ready for a “triumphant experience.” But on p. 26 I couldn’t make heads or tails of what I was really reading about. On p. 54 the voice of the innocent and well-meaning young priest began to irk the shit out of me. On p. 55 I skipped ahead to see if anything would ever actually happen to dilute all the fluffy introspection and it didn’t loo ...more
A difficult novel to pin down, not least because it runs so contrary to our typical expectations of what a novel should be. Not that it's highly experimental, but it surely doesn't follow the Victorian blueprint of a novel, or read like some uplifting tale of good faith. If I may venture a comparison, I would find it rather similar to books like Henri Barbusse's Hell or even Dostoevsky's Notes From Underground, though obviously with an added religious dimension. Personally, while I preferred ano ...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Jun 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Before his death on April 4th, 1947, Georges Bernanos gave a lecture in Tunisia entitled "Our Friends the Saints" which can teach us to say to the Lord, Lord, your love is infinite; I can't fathom it and it is sufficient for me, to which the Lord might answer us as he answered the mother who lost her little one,{ there is a mother who is hiding her face for the last time against the little heart that no longer throbs, a mother, close to her dead child, offering God the moaning of an exhausted re ...more
Czarny Pies
May 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Roman Catholics
Shelves: french-lit, favorites
The Journal of a Country Priest is the work of the strongly Catholic writer Georges Bernanos who gives the daily drama of a priest fighting in God's army against the devil for the salvation of human souls all the intensity that it so richly deserves.

The protagonist of this novel is a young priest who demonstrates that he possesses the true vocation. Despite growing up in poverty and being afflicted with a very serious illness, He does not flinch in his efforts to save the souls whose care has be
Jun 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This sad little book moves at the speed of human breath in repose, then spurred toward the halting gasps of mortal exertion. I can't recall ever reading a more painful, moving depiction of truly humble self-sacrifice than the eponymous priest's in Bernanos's engrossing, masterful clinic in the diaristic form of literature. I first heard of the book in an interview with Marilynne Robinson, in which it was cited (by the interviewer) as an apparent predecessor to Robinson's own brilliant and cleric ...more
Stephen Durrant
Nov 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
The Parisian Georges Bernanos (1888-1948) is one of the last century's greatest Catholic novelists, and this is probably his most admired book. As the title indicates, this is a fictional "diary" of a young, very ill, priest who is trying manfully to administer well to his small countryside parish. He struggles with faith, the role of suffering, the nature of evil and almost every other major religious topic as he strives to maintain his integrity and faithful stewardship over a very problematic ...more
Bernanos is one of the greatest Catholic writers of the 20th Century and this book, winner of the 1936 Grand-Prix of the French Academy, is widely recognised as his masterpiece. A tale of a young, seemingly inept, parish priest in a remote French village, this is indeed a remarkable novel but not necessarily an enjoyable one. Difficult is what it certainly is. First of all because it reflects the contradictions of its author - a devout Catholic who could be outspokenly critical of the Church, a ...more
Jun 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, france, own, reviewed
I read this while alone in Tokyo in November, 1975. Brrrr. The book sets forth in living black-and-white an aspect of France that many disregard: the terribly self-punishing, rigid, miserable, very November (of one's soul, so to speak) French Catholicism of times not all that very much gone by. I've never got it straight. Is THIS the Jansenist strain, Port-Royal and all that, or the other, more papistical orthodoxy? Shared with all too many Irish. Something severe, drizzling, gray, wintery, abso ...more
Aug 22, 2009 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book so much more than I did. I actually found it incredibly difficult to understand. Some of it, I think, was that it was poorly translated. I read a 1962 edition that doesn't even cite a translator -- so many of the sentences were so convoluted as to be utterly obtuse. Poor translation or witless reader? I never could figure out why Mlle Chantal was such an angry bitch and why she insisted on tormenting the priest. What was her secret? Was the priest an alcoholic or just ...more
Jim B
Aug 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: christian, classic
I am convinced that the translation of this book (translator: Pamela Morris) is a great barrier to the enjoyment of the book. It is apparent that the translator was unable to bring out the flow of the thought because sometimes the wrong word was used. Also, her choice of dialects was terrible (French peasants who speak like Irish or Cockneys!) From what I've read from other readers, the Diary is difficult enough to get through without this poor translation of it. Please, someone, come up with a ...more
Karna Swanson
Mar 29, 2008 rated it did not like it
I was expecting great things, but I couldn't even get through half of it. Hard to follow, boring, lots of long discourses that didn't have a point. I don't know, didn't get it. I have a copy of it if you'd life to give it a whirl. ...more
Conor Hardy
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"We need more 'no name' priests." - Fr. Ron G. regarding the priest of The Diary.
Hunter White
Jan 07, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review/Thoughts: [I will begin with my only complaint, the reason I gave 4 instead of 5 stars, as it is pretty minor]. My only complaint with this novel is the long, dense sections of dialogue that aren't truly dialogue, but more like monologues or, to use a contemporary phrase, TED Talks which a character will exposit to the protagonist, the priest of Ambricourt. These multiple-page long passages seem to be used as a way for Bernanos to approach a topic or theme, like the role of organized reli ...more
Feb 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful book that captures the trials and joys of a young priest in France in the first part of the 20th Century. The book kept me engrossed, but I must say that I felt as if I was reading it through a cloudy set of glasses. I'd be hard pressed to relate all that happens to the unnamed (I think) priest. I have a hunch that the English translation (there seems to be only one) is not that great. Still I highly recommend this novel. ...more
Mark miller
Aug 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: genome, mark
Reader Response Paper-writing
The Diary of a Country Priest

I just finished the novel so you will have to excuse me of my immediate sadness and sorrow for a man so beautiful and full of life. I could not bear to feel him die. Yes, feel. I felt as though I was with him in all his time of turmoil, agony, and internal suffering. I understand the meaning of Grace now, or at least I think I do. He meant that no matter what evil or hatred has been or is bestowed upon you that it does
May 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: catholic
I was deciding on weather to give this a 4 or 5 star review. I decided on a 5 star review on seeing other people’s perception of this book on parts I found it hard to understand especially the review that mentioned there it is a “deceptively quiet book” there is a meaning behind the tale of a priest and his parish. A tale of struggle with prayer, life, illness etc. I beganto understand it better. Towards the end it was very dark and sad but a good book overall and there where many lines that I h ...more
Matt Pitts
Jan 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
My early impression of this novel was that it felt like a cross between The Brothers Karamazov and Gilead. By the end that comparison ceased to be helpful in describing this unique and profound work. 4.5 stars.
Jan 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: catholic, literature
I think this was the last book I finished in 2018. The novel was actually portrayed as being what the title implies, nonetheless with detailed reflections and conversations with the community: parishioners, fellow priests, professionals, even with non-believers.

The plot is nothing epic or grand and it simply the ordinary and vivid impressions of a simple parish priests, covering nonetheless profound themes. There are themes of of poverty, wealth, industrialization, domestic strife, suffering, de
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is most remarkable. In Marilynne Robinson's GILEAD (2005), to which it has been compared, the psychological drama is mostly displaced and off-stage; we get hints of the narrator's moral and spiritual growth. In THE DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST, by contrast, the first-person accounts vividly reproduce what happened off-stage, so that one feels the writer's often painful growth. While the two novels are similar in form, the reading experience is quite different.

I was moved by the narrator's
Feb 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Like many diaries, this novel at first comes across as drifting in focus, centered on the mundane interactions with the priest's flock, fellow churchmen and suppliers of his wine and food. Bernanos is acutely aware of the jockeying within a parish: the importance of the priest's image among the churchgoers and among the Catholic hierarchy, and, most vividly, his relationship with the troubled family of the local nobility. The debates on faith and its nuances seem to last forever and turn on poin ...more
i read this a long time ago. though i remember it only dimly, i know that it changed my life, the way some books do. like The Catcher in the Rye. like Almanac of the Dead. like If This Is a Man. like that book by czeslaw milosz in which he riffs on whitman, whose title i cannot remember/find to save my life, and which got dropped to the bottom of the atlantic ocean when i tried to ship my books across continents in a box that was way too slight to hold so much weight. there are good books somewh ...more
Jan 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story concerns a young priest in a provincial French town, early in the 20th century. This is to some extent a "philosophical novel" in which the events are mainly a platform for extended conversations on the nature of God and belief among characters representing every social level of their town.
Our young priest is unusual in that he doesn't simply provide comfort and fulfill the rituals - he forces a few of his parishioners to confront their actual faith, or lack thereof. This doesn't make
Jan 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Let me describe myself, so you understand where I'm coming from. I'm 62 years old. Pre-Vatican American Catholic. Altarboy saying the Mass in Latin way back when in the '60's. Since then, something of a tough guy. Military vet. Trial Lawyer. Sinner. Left the Church for personal reasons.

I imagine that this book will have little appeal for most of my non-Christian friends, and even my Protestant friends, who simply don't "get" Catholic religiosity.

However, for you present or fallen away Catholic
Jun 19, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
I found myself skimming the long tedious monologues through this book, which got me to the end quicker, but didn't give me the full picture of the book. At first I found myself interested in the main character's life, but as it took quite a while for the crux of the story to show itself (some could argue that the crux doesn't really show itself until the very end of the book...), I lost interest and could not immerse myself in the story. A good idea that has been used much more often in recent f ...more
John Dobbs
Apr 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
I actually didn't finish the book. I bought it and started it because it was a favorite book of one of my favorite authors. I found it depressing (the sad ending of the book is revealed in the introduction - skip it if you don't want to know!). Admittedly it is French in origin and there were references to unfamiliar things to me - which might not be an obstacle to others. I have read thrilling reviews, but ultimately the book was a downer. I liked the first part as I got to know the priest, but ...more
Apr 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
man this was boss but i wish i were christian so it could be even better. angry atheists should probably read this, but who cares. it would be cool if more people could be like the priest in this, despite all the many, many capitalised pronouns and general floating dogma. forgiveness and finding "grace" in the face of being hated by everyone for being a runty little priest - talk about the story of my life! ...more
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Georges Bernanos était un écrivain français, gagneur du Grand Prix du Roman de l'Académie française en 1936 avec Journal d'un curé de campagne.

George Bernanos was a French writer. His 1936 book, Journal d'un curé de campagne (Diary of a Country Priest), won the Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française.

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