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On Pilgrimage

by Jennifer Lash

Buy the book: Jennifer Lash. On Pilgrimage

Release Date: 15 December, 1998

Edition: Hardcover


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Buy the book: Jennifer Lash. On Pilgrimage

Peculiar in the Best Sense

Jennifer Lash, who appears to be the mother of the actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes, made a solo trip of pilgrimage through France in l993 after winning a battle with cancer (for awhile). As a non-practising Catholic in late middle age, she knew her theological territory when traveling from convent to monastery to basilica to pilgrimage camp; but she approached her visits in a determined spirit of not-knowing. I found that intellectually or maybe morally refreshing; it served as a Carlos-Castaneda-like bridge role which helped me, the reader, someone else who does "not know". Her experience of moving on repeatedly reminded her that travel brings us back up against our selves. She feels strongly and works transparently to understand her feelings; the sorting-out process which the pilgrimage crystallizes for this writer can illuminate whatever journey her reader is on.

Her writing is both erudite and humble. She was a sophisticated Briton who had spent much of her life raising her very large family. From miracle site to miracle site on the French trains, carrying her baggage on an injured back, she tells us the stories of the saints whose cults have given rise to these sites, and describes the religious communities which maintain them. In between, she tells us about the people she meets and re-meets. She is often wry, but never sarcastic; describes ridiculousness sharply but never cruelly. She learns as she goes, and as she learns she teaches, in the kindest way. She is a LADY - decent and sincere, and also funny and engaged.
Her descriptions make the feel of each place most vivid - the baroque, fully alive Santiago de Compostela, the gloomy, cold Rocamadour, the wild emotional Gypsy pilgrimage in the Camargue are all made quite visible, audible, smellable, each entirely different from the others - and there are about fifteen of these places in the book.
The book is horribly proofread - the commas are in the wrong places, so that Ms. Lash reads like a rather bizarre speaker - a peculiar pauser for breath in funny places. There are outright mistakes that no one caught - the word "paramount" is confused with "tantamount", for example, and a priest is described as wearing a "scapula", the shoulder blade, when she meant "scapular", a liturgical garment. We know what she means, but we have to wade along doing our own corrections.
This strange aberration makes reading the book feel like chatting with a deeply imaginative, thoughtful, unselfconsciously wacky human being, rather than "a writer". But what a writer, and what a significant story this journey is when told in her voice.


Enjoyable for the most part

Just finished the book and found it very poetic in some parts and kind of confusing in others. There were two errors that I found, and maybe it is nit-picking, but it made me wonder about other information that was given. First, Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine in the cathedral at Poitiers, not in Lisieux, and Abelard is buried in Pere Lachaise Cemetary in Paris with Heloise, not in Cluny. Well worth reading, tho, especially if you've been to some of the places mentioned, or plan to visit others. I found it fascinating that she most always found a room wherever she stopped whatever the time. Obviously she spoke French well.


Nizhniy Novgorod

© FAB Russia, 2003-2005

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