Philip Pullman - The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ

This article is from 2010

Philip Pullman - The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ

'The Most Dangerous Author in Britain' comes to the Book Festival

You will know him by the horns, of course, and the casual air of unholy sin. For Philip Pullman is the anti-God and ‘The Most Dangerous Author in Britain’, according to the modern gospel of The Mail on Sunday. To most of us, however, he is the avuncular narrative craftsman who shines a light on morality via far-flung physics, adventure and fantasy. Best known for the His Dark Materials trilogy (winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year and the Carnegie Medal), our Norwich-born chronicler’s latest work is the timeless – if controversial – fable The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ.

While its title alone was enough to warrant threats of damnation from religious groups, the novel’s message is characteristically ambiguous. In re-conceiving the ‘most influential story ever told’, Pullman brings forth the twins Jesus (a strong man, an idealist, a great orator) and Christ (a weaker man, a realist, a scribe) in a parable that scrutinises how stories, myths and histories are made.

Pullman’s greatest works may be designated as ‘worthy of the bonfire’ in some quarters – and he’s long been a critic of organised religion – but it’s worth bearing in mind that he is a humanitarian, an activist and a carpenter (sound familiar?) who wrote about Jesus at the behest of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Pullman’s vivid storytelling instinct – honed during many years of teaching – is matched by his capacity to enrage, excite and oppose. A lively Book Festival pilgrimage is assured.

14 Aug, 11.30am, £10 (£8).

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