Category Archives: Bernanos

Totally chaotic

For what was perhaps the first time, the journalist caught a clear glimpse of his inner self, pale and dazed, before it disappeared again, like a dream in the light of morning… It was not so much Cenabre’s words, with their vague suggestion of anger and scorn, as the complete change in the subtle priest and the way in which he communicated a compelling inner vision shown by an attitude and voice that dragged Pernichon’s inner core into the open like a muscle suddenly jumping out of its covering in a surgeon’s hands. Being seen as a skillful and ambitious man who weighed his chances, a doubtful friend and a watchful enemy, would not have offended him. The attacks he had just suffered, however, hit a deeper, more secret and sensitive spot, the point of balance, as it were, of his humble existence: the idea, which was now a habitual and integral part of his thinking, of an inner struggle, the need to be able to classify himself, a certain stability. His self-concept had been brutally uprooted, and the suddenly persuasive hypothesis of a life with no spiritual reality breaking into his normally very carefully managed conscience had been enough to shock him into seeing how totally chaotic that conscience really was. There are very many other people who watch more or less strictly over their actions and yet, like sailors observing the stars without looking at their compasses, are unaware of where their will or their perverted instincts are taking them. The horror lies not in the strangers whose paths cross ours but in the features our devastated soul will suddenly meet and not recognize as its own.

— Georges Bernanos, The Impostor (tr. Whitehouse)


Another terrible night. It was raining so hard I didn’t dare go to the church. I couldn’t pray. I know very well that the desire to pray is already prayer, and that God couldn’t ask for more. But it wasn’t a question of duty. At that moment, I needed prayer like I needed air in my lungs or oxygen in my blood. Behind me, there was no longer familiar day-to-day life which one can leave behind in one fell swoop. Behind me there was nothing, and before me was a wall. A black wall. Suddenly something seemed to shatter in my breast, and I was seized by a trembling that lasted over an hour. What if it had only been an illusion? Even the saints knew their hour of failure and loss.

— Bernanos, Diary of a Country Priest