Truth or Death Front Cover

Paperback / softback
ISBN: 9780889225091
Pages: 416
Pub. Date: September 1 2004
Dimensions: 9" x 6" x 1.125"
Rights: Available: WORLD
Non-Fiction / LIT007000

  • LITERARY CRITICISM / Books & Reading

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Truth or Death
The Quest for Immortality in the Western Narrative Tradition
By Thierry Hentsch
Translated by Fred A. Reed

In the tradition of James Frazer, Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, Thierry Hentsch retells, with new urgency and a keen critical eye, “the story of the West” that shapes our perception of the world. Yet, “the story of the West” does not exist. Only a reading of its most seminal texts—from Ulysses to Hamlet, from the Torah to the Gospels, from Plato to Descartes—can bring it alive.

His tale turns on a startling discovery: The Christian message of immortality is conditional. To overcome death—the touchstone of the human condition—the believer must accept the Truth of salvation. Western civilization, by replacing God with technoscience, offers the universal promise that salvation may now be gained on earth. Yet, as a condition, it would impose its own absolute morality on the world. Truth or Death: the Biblical injunction is ours as well.

Winner 2005 Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation

“A monumental study of the stories that have shaped the narrative identity of Western civilization and its vision of the world, Truth or Death: The Quest for Immortality in the Western Narrative Tradition by Thierry Hentsch is, first and foremost, a celebration of the act of (re)reading designed to spark renewed interest in the narrative texts that constitute Western consciousness, along with the truths upon which it reposes… Taking its cue from the original, Fred A. Reed’s magnificent translation offers a sophisticated, intellectually engaged, eminently readable retelling of Hentsch’s retelling of the West’s founding narratives.”
University of Toronto Quarterly

“Hentsch’s book gives a new meaning to the experience of reading itself as the medium that keeps meaning alive in our lives and connects us to our past. At the same time, the book brings to comparison the two most important modes of expressing meanings i.e. narrative and philosophy.”

“Gives a powerful urge to return to the great stories.”
Le Temps (Geneva)

“This is an eminently readable translation of Thierry Hentsch’s book, which awakens in us a desire to return to the great literary classics of western civilization and see them with fresh eyes. Thanks to his breadth of knowledge and superb command of language, Fred A. Reed has demonstrated the very story-telling skills celebrated in the original text.”
– Governor General’s Awards Jury, 2005

“All those who wonder what is a classic, or who simply wish to re-establish contact with the sources of the Western narrative tradition, will find here a work of great depth, magnificently written.”
Le Devoir

“By warning the reader against the danger of losing faith in the power of stories, and in the power of the imagination, Thierry Hentsch proves that myth is not dead, that man still seeks to understand, through stories and in the form of a story, his relationship with existence and with death.”