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Friday, December 7, 2012

Mystical Novel About A Gypsy Saint

 The description of The Valley of the Silent People from The Bookplex was very compelling to me.  It told me that the novel dealt with Saint Sara.  I had seen references to her, but I knew almost nothing about her.  Reading this book led me to do further research which is appended to my review below.

                                                      The 2012 Golden Mask Award
                                                  for favorite book from The Bookplex
                                                                      this year                      

In this novel an ordinary man grieving over the loss of his wife experiences extraordinary events.   Author Greg Sarwa raises questions, but offers no definitive explanations.  Yet readers who loved The Da Vinci Code, and are inclined to symbolic interpretation, may notice some clues.

Sarwa writes lovely prose and I enjoyed reading it.  Unfortunately, The Valley of the Silent People is written in first person.  It didn’t seem likely to me that the blue collar protagonist, Joe Clatt, would choose to express himself in poetic phrases. If this book were revised, a switch to a third person perspective would only involve a change in pronouns. 

What I valued most about The Valley of the Silent People is its spiritual themes. I am not Catholic, but I have a fondness for such saints as Joan of Arc and Francis of Assisi.  To them, I will now add the unofficial Saint Sara who is a central focus of this novel’s narrative.  I am grateful to Sarwa for pointing the way to her. Saint Sara is venerated by the Rom, who are popularly known as gypsies. According to the historical sources about the Rom that I have read, they are originally from India. Although The Valley of the Silent People is slanted toward Christian mysticism, I recognized Hindu elements in the Rom practices described in this book.  This appears to be an example of the religious fusion that is called syncretism by academics.  I have always been fascinated by syncretism wherever I have found it. 

                                               Resources About Saint Sara

 Wikipedia Article on Saint Sarah   I read the various stories told about her, and learned that the town in France described in Sarwa's novel is indeed where the rites of Saint Sarah take place. I also found that I am not the only one who sees parallels to Hinduism.

 Here is a page from a Rom perspective:

Rom Page on Saint Sara and Her Shrine

There are videos relating to Saint Sara worship on You Tube. 

 In French:
2012 Rom Pilgrimage to France  These are images of the most recent Saint Sara festival in France.

In Portuguese:
There are many of these, but these particular videos are very beautiful.
Brazilian Video of Saint Sara Pilgrimage to France
Brazilian Saint Sara Video
Brazilian Saint Sara Practices

To understand more about this Brazilian approach to Saint Sara translate the following Portuguese blog entry into English:

Brazilian Saint Sara Worship

I also found a very interesting blog entry about Saint Sara in the African Diasporic religion, Santeria.

Saint Sara Kali in Santeria

It was wonderful to immerse myself in Saint Sara material on the internet for a few hours, but I feel like I've only scratched the surface.  I'd like to pursue Saint Sara further in the future.


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