On a remote mission station a monk buries the heart of his Superior beneath the great iron cross overlooking the no-man's-land between the colonies of Natal and the Cape. He then begins to write his own account of his dead leader and friend Abbott Franz Pfanner, charismatic leader of the Trappists in South Africa and much mythologised founder of Mariannhill monastery and its chain of missions. Under Pfanner, Mariannhill became one of the largest abbeys in the world, but only at a terrible price. The narrator of this extraordinary tale is witness to a story that ranges from Austria to Bosnia, Natal to East Griqualand. Aptly named after Joseph of Cupertino, the Holy Fool and Gaper, his attempt at proclaiming the sins of others and confessing his own draws the reader into a vivid sense both of the silent life of the Trappists and the storm that breaks as Mariannhill drifts into the world of words. Here faith, contemplation and grace become intimately intermingled with demonic possession, madness, even murder.
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