This impassioned work, written from 1933 to 1935 (and first published in English in 1958) while he was successively ambassador to the United States and Belgium, marks a pivotal point in the career of French poet and playwright Paul Claudel, one of the most important and accomplished literary figures in European history. With this book, Claudel commenced his profound written commentaries on the Bible and on the deepest mysteries of his Catholic faith. In these works (10 of the 30 volumes in Claudel’s collected writings)—and particularly in this first one, a meditation on the last seven words of Christ—Claudel the dramatic poet unpacks the meaning of the cruciform nature of the Christian life. He always claimed that form of existence as the very source of his poetry and drama, making this book a hermeneutic key to the vision animating all Claudel’s literary art.
But the book is also captivating and important in its own right—a rich and fascinating poetic exegesis of Christian belief. As David Schindler makes clear in his introduction (a major reassessment of Claudel and the meaning of his art and of his faith), Claudel in this at times disturbing book resembles nothing so much as the great Patristic Fathers in their imaginative recovery of boundless analogical meaning within the Scriptures and in a myriad of created things.