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Schwarzer Narziss (1939)

von Rumer Godden

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4481043,162 (3.89)83
High in the Himalayas near Darjeeling, the old mountaintop palace shines like a jewel. When it was the General's 'harem' palace, richly dressed ladies wandered the windswept terraces; at night, music floated out over the villages and gorges. Now, the General's son has bestowed it on an order of nuns, the Sisters of Mary. Well-intentioned yet misguided, the nuns set about taming the gardens and opening a school and dispensary for the villagers. They are dependent on the local English agent of Empire, Mr Dean; but his charm and insolent candour are disconcerting. And the implacable emptiness of the mountain, the ceaseless winds, exact a toll on the Sisters.When Mr Dean says bluntly, 'This is no place for a nunnery,' it is as if he foresees their destiny...… (mehr)
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Wasgiven it as a novel around twelve years old in English class. Hated it and refused to finish it. As now a BBC series I tried again. Still rubbish. Patronising to the Indian continent and dull. ( )
  mumoftheanimals | Jan 16, 2021 |
Brooding and gothic; this tale of culture and religion clashing in the mountains of India is unique and compelling. The General has gifted his remote palace to the Sisters of Mary after it was mysteriously vacated by monks after only six months. At first the sisters were delighted, it was odd, yes; but beautiful too and filled them all with the anticipation of work and good deeds. They aim to open a hospital and school for the villagers but a lot of the work is out of their reach - they must rely on one of the few English speaking residents, Mr. Dean to help them with the labor. He's unconventional, uncouth, and has "gone native." He sees firsthand the remarkable transformation of the nuns - the chilling and haunting palace may be too much for the sisters - but what will it take for them to admit defeat? ( )
  ecataldi | Dec 16, 2020 |
Black Narcissus. Rumer Godden. 1939. Godden is an excellent writer. She reminds me of P. D. James in that the prose is so enjoyable you don’t mind how slow she in in unveiling the plot. From the beginning there is a sense of approaching disaster. A small group of nuns, goes to the Himalayas to set up a school in the former palace of the General’s harem. A group of Catholic brothers had left mysteriously, but the nuns are determined to succeed even though they are warned against staying by the English Agent, Mr. Dean. The Himalayas could be said to be the main character. The nuns are immediately and continually touch by the grandeur of the mountains, the inexhaustible wind, the cultural differences, and the non-Christian spirituality of the place. Suspense builds as each nun is haunted both physically and spiritually, and we wait to see what the final disaster will be. ( )
  judithrs | Jan 7, 2018 |
Black Narcissus was Rumer Godden’s third novel for adults, and the first of several which were adapted for film. The film Black Narcissus was released in 1947 in Technicolor, which not all films were in those days. It starred Deborah Kerr and Jean Simmons and was directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. The film was a hit and won a coveted Academy Award for its cinematography. I remember seeing the film years ago, although I can’t say I remembered much about the story other than it involved a dramatic tale of nuns on a mountain in India.

The novel opens as Sister Clodagh prepares to leave her religious community in Darjeeling for Mopu in the Himalayan mountains to the north. Here Sister Clodagh will take on the role of Sister Superior to a small group of nuns who will be helping to set up a convent school community in an abandoned palace. The palace was once known as ‘the House of Women’ built for a harem of the General who leased the land from the British rulers. Now the General’s son, another General has given the palace to the Sisters of Mary – believing a school and hospital just what the poor local people need. Before they leave, Mother Dorothea lets Sister Clodagh know that she has some reservations about Clodagh’s readiness for this responsibility. Clodagh is certain she is ready for the challenge, and leads her fellow sisters; Sister Ruth, Sister Briony, Sister Honey and Sister Philippa – confidently towards a new adventure.

The group of sisters begin the long trek up the hills to their new home, a palace wreathed in scandal, set against a breathtakingly beautiful landscape. Mopu is home to tea growers, snow-capped mountain peaks and the glorious flora and fauna one associates with India. As always Rumer Godden portrays the landscape and people of India, beautifully and with obvious affection.

“It was strange how little you noticed the valley or the River where the green snow water streaked the jelly whiteness of the stream. You noticed the gulf where the birds flew level with the lawn; across it was the forest rising to bare and bony ridges, and behind them and above them, the Himalayan snows where the ice wind blew.
Sometimes they were like turrets of icing sugar, pretty and harmless; on some days they seemed as if they might come crashing down on a hill. On others they were hidden behind drifts of cloud and a spray floated from one to another; but however they looked, there was always the wind to remind you of what they were. The wind was always the same.”

The sisters have a lot of work to do to make the old palace ready to use as a school and dispensary, and they set to work as soon as they arrive. An elderly Chinese woman Angu Ayah has had caretaking responsibilities at the palace and she stays on to help the sisters in their duties. One of the first people the sisters meet is local British agent Mr Dean – who they have been told will be on hand to help the sisters should they need it. Mr Dean is an informally dressed whisky drinker who rather shocks the sisters with his relaxed laid-back attitude and teasing humour. Mr Dean exudes a strength the nuns will have need of in the months ahead, and later, as they come to know him better they discover in him an ability to great sympathy and understanding.

The General’s nephew and heir, the young General Dilip Rai comes to the sisters to learn French, and a beautiful young girl Kanchi – who the locals have gossiped about wildly – has been placed with the sisters at the request of her uncle. Kanchi is soon surreptitiously keeping a close eye on the handsome young General – who, himself has an unusual effect on Sister Clodagh. Something in the character of the young General reminds her of her ill-fated romance with a neighbouring boy; Con – back in Ireland before she took holy orders.

“As he walked he kicked the stones away from him and slashed at the bushes; he looked pretty and naughty as a child, though he was nearly a full man; tall and beautifully built, not like a hill man but like a young Rajpit.
He slashed with his cane at the bushes, and she was suddenly back, walking down the Wishing Lane at home with Con; the green damp lane that led from the House gates past Skinners Farm to the lake, and Con was slashing at the hedge to show his temper.”

Mr Dean’s promise that the sisters will fail in their mission look set to come true as the nuns show time and again a lack of understanding for the people they are living among. The people have their own traditions and long held superstitions – and these are soon at odds with the inflexible attitudes of the sisters. Other troubles, passions and little jealousies play a part in causing the community difficulties as one of the sisters starts to show signs of mental illness. The magical landscape seems to beguile each of the sisters – distracting them from their purpose and allowing them, at times, to dream. Throughout the novel there is an air of forbidden passions rising to the surface, which Godden explores with wonderful subtlety.

Despite the drama and tragedy towards the end, the novel is much quieter than the film, which I remember as being quite melodramatic.

I am hoping to squeeze one more Rumer Godden novel into July as I do have two others waiting and Black Narcissus has served as a timely reminder to what a good writer she was. ( )
  Heaven-Ali | Nov 11, 2017 |
You have to be very strong to live close to God or a mountain, or you'll turn a little mad.

Similar to Manderlay of Rebecca, the Himalayas here is the unspoken main character of Black Narcissus, looming over its inhabitants with its imposing, majestic presence and inevitably, the well-intentioned nuns discovers just how difficult it is to live so close to God in such a remote expanse.

Godden expertly portrays the primal, psychological effects this sort of pious, naturalistic living has on each devoted and their relationships, how the lack of contact with the outside world results in a drop in expectations of the standards of behaviours, with convincing reveal and exaggeration of existing personalities and desires. Combined with the lush imagery of the magnificent surroundings and repressed sexualities, this otherwise unremarkable story of nuns planning a Grand Design episode is elevated to a complex tale of dark desires. ( )
  kitzyl | Feb 28, 2016 |
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AutorennameRolleArt des AutorsWerk?Status
Rumer GoddenHauptautoralle Ausgabenberechnet
Thomas, RosieEinführungCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt
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The Sisters left Darjeeling in the last week of October.
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High in the Himalayas near Darjeeling, the old mountaintop palace shines like a jewel. When it was the General's 'harem' palace, richly dressed ladies wandered the windswept terraces; at night, music floated out over the villages and gorges. Now, the General's son has bestowed it on an order of nuns, the Sisters of Mary. Well-intentioned yet misguided, the nuns set about taming the gardens and opening a school and dispensary for the villagers. They are dependent on the local English agent of Empire, Mr Dean; but his charm and insolent candour are disconcerting. And the implacable emptiness of the mountain, the ceaseless winds, exact a toll on the Sisters.When Mr Dean says bluntly, 'This is no place for a nunnery,' it is as if he foresees their destiny...

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