Interview on Sophia House

An interview with the internet journal Ignatius Insight, on the writing of Sophia House and other  novels in The Children of the Last Days series.
 
Ignatius Insight:  Sophia House is the sixth novel in the series. How has that series of novels evolved over time? What has surprised you or intrigued you about the development of the series over the years?

Michael O’Brien: In the late 1970s I wrote two novels, A Cry of Stone and Strangers and Sojourners, simply responding to an interior prompting to write down these stories which just kept fountaining up in my imagination. They were overtly Catholic in content, and I was young enough, naïve enough too, to think it was possible for them to be published in Canada. Over more than a decade I amassed a hefty collection of rejection letters from publishers, who usually said something like, “Loved the characters and the writing, but the reading public is no longer interested in this worldview.” Translation: no orthodox Catholic vision of reality is acceptable in the mainstream of culture. I didn’t even ponder venturing south of the border, just tucked my novels away in a box, chalking it up to experience, an exercise in writing, and no more. Years later a friend high up in the Canadian literary establishment, who was himself an agnostic, assured me with utmost conviction that the problem with my books was their Catholic vision.

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Sophia House

sophia-cover

Sophia House is set in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation. Pawel Tarnowski, a bookseller, gives refuge to a Jewish youth (David Schäfer) who has escaped from the Ghetto, and hides him in the attic of the book shop. Throughout the winter of 1942-43, haunted by the looming threat of discovery, the two discuss good and evil, sin and redemption, literature and philosophy, and their respective religious views of reality. Decades later David becomes a convert to Catholicism and is the Carmelite priest, Fr. Elijah, called by the Pope to confront the Antichrist in Michael O’Brien’s novel, Father Elijah: an apocalypse. In this “prequel” the author explores the meaning of love, religious identity, and sacrifice viewed from two distinct perspectives.



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