Irresistible Strozzi

Jerome Strozzi stole my book review, just like he stole Jean Sulivan’s novel. I was going to paint Eternity, My Beloved as the equivalent of the 1,500-some page Les Miserables, boiled down to 146 pages of raw form and elemental truth. It would have been a beautiful analogy. But I realized that if anything is going to draw you into this book, it has to be Strozzi. Strozzi is irresistible.

Strozzi is the book’s protagonist, an unassuming, respectable priest in pre-World War II France. He takes assignments from his superiors and becomes an admired professor at a Catholic high school. But during the Nazi occupation, he is sent to minister in the "unoccupied zone," a section of Paris ruled by the underworld of crime. There, out from under the Catholic hierarchy’s watchful eye, a spark ignites in Strozzi, and after 50-plus years of living, he comes alive. Strozzi relates to the thieves, prostitutes, and pimps around him without condescension. He doesn’t tell them anything about God, and he espouses no doctrine; he just lives among them.

Jean Sulivan, himself a rebel priest, taught school and ran several cultural organizations for 20 years. At age 45, after his first novel found popularity, he requested (and was granted) permission from the cardinal of Rennes to write full time. He wrote more than 30 books over the course of his life. Eternity, My Beloved was originally published in 1966 in France and was this year translated from the French. Sulivan died in a car accident in 1980.

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