Song at the Scaffold, The

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An English translation by Olga Marx of Gertrud von Le Fort’s Die Letzte am Schafott. A gifted writer and convert to the Catholic Faith, Le Fort focuses her historical novel on one of the final episodes from the horrific French Revolution. Based on the true story of the sixteen Carmelite nuns whose martyrdoms consummated the Reign of Terror this beautifully written tale of triumph was composed around the character of a frail and timid young novice, the daughter of a cynical Jacobin sympathizer, the Marquis de la Force. Blanche de la Force entered Carmel at sixteen, however, her superior deemed her unsuited for the rigorous life of the cloister. Nevertheless, she was tolerated; that is, until the Prioress received death threats from a rabid revolutionary. Thenceforward the story intensifies as Sister Blanche’s strives inwardly to stay “loyal to fear” in her vow never to abandon Christ in His Gethsemani. The psychological pressure coming not only from her superior, but from her heroic fellow sisters in Christ, to dissuade the “weak one” from the coming trial mounts to the breaking point. She flees the convent, only to complete shortly thereafter the song of the scaffold. Here is a novel that is truly a channel of grace.

Gertrud von Le Fort

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