Review of The nun by Denis Diderot

The NunThe Nun by Denis Diderot

Through the halls and cells of a convent, guarded by high walls and austere religious customs, we follow a young nun making arrangements to escape a future that was imposed on her. She has a knack for logic and no ear for vocation, so she is not able to find any justification for all the suffering and pious rules that govern her. In her fight for freedom she uses all the means of revolt there are: open protest, rigid obedience, lawsuit, relocation etc. Embracing her destiny is not a viable alternative and even an ungodly reader prays with her that it will not become one.

Our habits and rituals may seem ridiculous to an outside observer, all the more so, when there is no reason behind them. The church’s aberrations are rarely so vividly coloured as in the journey of this nun, who happens to find herself surrounded by odd habits of nunneries and can’t make sense of them. She is as close to a spring of meaning as it gets and everything she encounters forces her to drink from it: old traditions, that must have some sense to have lasted for so long and to be so highly respected; the lives of fellow nuns that must be meaningful in some way. Nevertheless she finds none for herself and remains detached. There’s no hidden, internal logic of such a closed system, just an obliviousness to the general laws of the world.

Although this novel is an epitome of all the wrongdoings of religious institutions to a degree that it made me laugh, I still felt a bit cheated by the final twist; but in a most charming way there is. I wanted to go back in time when stories emerged in passing and there was still as much effort put in personal pursuits as it was in professional ones… If, of course, such a time ever existed and it was not reserved for the chosen few who might as well be living today.


12 thoughts on “Review of The nun by Denis Diderot

  1. I’ve not read the book but in your review you mention the odd rituals that make no sense and in the end the heroine remains detached….not unlike the autism spectrum.

    Yes, it’s free association day here near the beach. A nice review, thanks for sharing!


  2. I haven’t read this book but your excellent review makes me want to do so. The habits and rituals – and wrongdoings – of the old religious institutions are fascinating, and I’d like to join this nun on her journey of discovery and understanding. I’ll certainly add ‘The Nun’ to my TBR list.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So good to hear that:) Perhaps the journey is not one of understanding, but I still hope you’ll read it. It’s a nice and flowy book, quite cruel at some places, but very readable:)


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