An amazing book I read several years ago and have only just got over. Hilarious and deeply profound.
It begins in a post apocalyptic world, 600 years after a nuclear war at the end of the twentieth century.
tribes led by mad ignorants roam the lands, clashing with mutant humans
and "misbirths" - there is a King and in New Rome the Pope still
receives pilgrims. But the core of the book is the story of a small
Abbey and the inhabitants who worship the blessed "Leibowitz", an
electrician from before "The Flame Deluge" whose scrappy note reading:
"Pound pastrami, can kraut, six bagels, bring home for Emma" is
worshipped by the monks as a holy text.
Religion and morality
still survives but science and literacy have been abolished. All pre-war
knowledge was hunted down and destroyed in The Simplification. Ignorant
of their meaning but sensing their importance, the monks strive to
preserve and protect any fragments of scientific texts they can find.
Gradually, within the next 600 years the interest in science grows and
the "Memorabilia" in the Abbey reveals its secrets to visiting
Unearthing the secrets of the old civilization
becomes paramount and the scientists who work to do this find it
difficult to accept that they aren't discovering, they are only
re-discovering. Brilliant characters live and die throughout the book,
but there are constant observers too, The Poet with One Eye, a centuries
old Wanderer who is waiting for the Messiah and the saintly carved
wooden face of Leibowitz. Tied to neither Religion or Science, these odd
characters carry the spirit of "God" throughout the ages and watch
cynically as the monks and scientists come to an uneasy truce, neither
able to truly manifest Truth.
Meanwhile, the self perpetuating
and cyclical nature of civilization continues remorselessly as the
World Court prepares for another nuclear war, which neither the
re-advancement of science nor the humility and fossilised rituals of
religion can prevent...