#5 Book Review: The Revolt Of The Angels (1914) by Anatole France

reading glasses sexy teaser photo personalThis morning I am at my day job, unable to focus yet, because last night I finally finished what will now be known as my favorite book. It took me a considerable time to finish the book, which I first received at the end of May 2018, as a birthday gift. I read about ¾ of the way through it, and lost interest, because it was difficult to read and I needed to take many breaks. This winter, I resumed to read it and decided I would start from the very beginning; it was a hard book to follow for me, with its older English translation (the only language I can read in!), and names that I still cannot correctly pronounce. The first run through it felt like waking up and stretching my brain. I spent a lot of time trying to understand the culture of the narration, a world from over a hundred years ago which I didn’t understand. By the time I began reading through it again, it was easier for me to go from page to page, and my reading brain was clearly becoming more exercized. I went from not being able to focus and not having read much in several years, to reading Revolt Of The Angels nearly twice, and unable to stop!

Does that sound like something that might benefit you? Has it been a while since you’ve been able to finish a good book? Well, if you like to force yourself into a challenge such as I do, start with this one. When I first learned to drive, I learned on a stick shift because I knew that I would be lazy about learning it in any other way. So, I dove in, not feet first but head first, such as with becoming accustomed to reading again. Now, I am a very strong advocate for Satanic Study, and currently piled on my bed near my pillow is a stack of six new books I have to get through. However, the first two years or so of my studying came from video form, lectures, online research and conversation. Much of my study so far as consisted of patch-worked information bytes that I sought out specifically, and, while I believe we have access to more information online than we ever really have before, there was something that I just wasn’t doing: Reading. I needed to read, to read through the parts of a book that wasn’t easy or enjoyable, to analyze a sentence structure, to read between the lines. This provides to you something that you can’t get anywhere else.

Revolt Of The Angels was my favorite book before I finished it for two reasons: first, I could tell that it was making me fall in love with reading again before I was halfway through; second, the themes of the book are canon for modern Satanism (in the style of The Satanic Temple) and is recommended reading for newbie Satanists like myself. In the paragraphs below there will be spoilers. The themes of Revolt can be dissected and interpreted for hours, and have been, by literature professors and scholars. Since I am neither a professor or a scholar, I’m going to do my best to just tell you what I loved about it.

In the beginning of the book, a long and tedious image is painted for you of what you might imagine to be the most glorious and complete library in the entire world. I enjoyed this, though it was the hardest part to get through, because I’m an uncultured millennial and I have no idea what half of those fucking books are which are described. Almost predicting this a century ago, the author goes into great detail to explain the source and the importance of everything you might see if you were to walk into the library itself. Though I hadn’t heard of any of these titles and didn’t understand even some of the words used to describe the different types of volumes, I immediately had immense respect and curiosity for them. Only better would be an audio-book to correct my childish inner voice attempting to get through the pages of names. Most individuals tend not to enjoy being made to feel stupid, however, in the privacy of your own home, in your pajamas on your bed, if a book can make you feel entirely useless, you have the ability to confront that without any witnesses, and squint at the pages in front of you, take breaks, experience some anger perhaps, and then continue. In the privacy of your own home, you can become less ignorant. This in of itself is foreshadowing of the story!

I may be being dramatic but this is how the experience began for me and this is probably why I feel so much pride in finishing the book. Soon after the fictional library is permanently affixed into your mind, and you’ve done your best to keep track of who each monsieur and mademoiselle is and why they are important (and not all of them are!), you’ve got a bird’s eye view of this entire town, this entire community and its rich culture. If the book were to end here, you may not see a point to it, but you’d have still enjoyed the ride thus far.

In what could almost be the beginning of a new or second book, you become introduced to the amusing follies of a bored and hedonistic Guardian Angel, tracking his so far invisible movements through that massive library and driving everyone around him nearly insane in the process. Finally, the book rewards you with comic relief. And here, you begin to fall out of love with the library and in love with Arcade, who is inspired by Lucifer himself, to take this new knowledge with him of the undeserving Tyrant of the heavens, and violently claim the skies for himself (and all angels). Arcade studies the first battle against the heavens raged by Lucifer and yearns to learn more about it, and eventually, to try again.

The book takes you on a journey following Maurice’s mortal experiences confronting his own spirituality and confronting his rogue Angel, and you will be transported back and forth between the two characters while they separate and grow individually. Similarly, once their paths meet again, you will find yourself deeply immersed in their relationship, both feeling empathy for Maurice as a human struggling with his moral compass, as well as empathy for the Angel who is nothing but a walking hopeless romantic, an idealist, with his celestial head in the clouds.

The grand adventure that Arcade goes on, meeting other angels and celestial beings who live on the Earth, introduces you to creatures that are both mythical and glorious, and very humanized in their lazy natures. The girth of the tale places you, childlike, at the feet of several beings who share with you (and with Arcade), their own stories and accounts of watching humankind come into being and continue the cycle of finding and losing religion. You’ll watch as societies collapse and civilization expands, and you’ll watch as faith is both born, lost and restored. You’ll witness the beauty of a wild, pagan humanity and you’ll be reminded of the violent, authoritarian religions that take rule. And once you’re perfectly uncomfortable and lost in that timeline, you’ll wake up back inside the story, following Arcade as he continues his journey: he has a war to wage, and he has angels to win over to his side. Naive Arcade, with his brilliance and courage, sets forth and continues on, marching forward to collect his army and his weapons, and seek out Satan, hoping to once more take on the God that had demanded servitude and control. He asks Satan to lead them. After all of this, Satan says no.

When I finished the book, I cried. I teared up because, at the conclusion, it became obvious that this war against theocracy and ignorance was not a war that could be won, but only forever fought. Along the way, these angels and other characters would argue about the war, how to war, the purpose of the war, and they would debate endlessly about what actions they should take. Arcade would spend time explaining why the Christian God must be put in his place and why the world is better off without him, and Arcade’s companions would both agree and challenge his position. It was these conversations, these debates being witnessed, which was the heart fight itself. If Arcade’s wish was realized, and Satan led a new rebellion against the heavens, armed with both the knowledge that it is necessary and the tools to succeed, Satan himself would replace God on the throne and become him, and God would, exiled to Earth and forced to consider himself, become Satan. It was enough, Satan concludes after waking up from a dream in which he witnesses the result of this war, to have the power and the means to win. It is enough to know that you can see the heavens for what they are, and it is enough to be able to reject the ignorance and fear within yourself. Once you can do this, once you are, in your heart, free, you can never be a servant to that which reigns over you. All this time, during this entire journey, Arcade was gaining his freedom and freeing others, not with violence, but with knowledge and discussion and experience. The battle was, in every possible way, already won.

“No, let us not conquer the heavens. It is enough to have the power to do so. War engenders war, and victory defeat. God, conquered, will become Satan; Satan, conquering, will become God. May the fates spare me this terrible lot!‎”

 

4 thoughts on “#5 Book Review: The Revolt Of The Angels (1914) by Anatole France

  1. I really enjoyed reading this book and I would highly recommend it, but the end was actually a bit of a letdown for me. I was dismayed to discover Satan was an anarchist. I wanted him to be a Marxist-Leninist like me. I don’t believe it’s true that power always corrupts. I don’t think there’s any evidence to prove that someone would change their entire personality, their morals and their goals after coming into a position of power – if only because of the force of habit and the social pressure to be consistent.

    1. I can see why coming in from that perspective would give you a disappointing ending, and I do think that perhaps they could have added at least more inner dialogue to defend Lucifer’s dream version of reality. I found the ending to be perfect aside from that more could have been added which might justify more empathy from radicals 🙂

  2. One thing I’m surprised you didn’t mention is the humor in this book. It’s a very comic novel (though I suspect some of the humor is lost in translation), and Anatole France’s use of satire does even more to deflate the pretensions of Church and State than the more earnest and beautiful sections of the book.

    1. This is true! I appreciated the humor enough to ought to have mentioned it. Perhaps I will. And the humor itself added regular comic relief to the otherwise grueling details, and, as you said, had an important role to play in of itself.

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