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583 Walter M. Miller Jr.: A Canticle for Leibowitz

“A Canticle for Leibowitz” explores a post-apocalyptic world and the preservation of knowledge by a monastic order.



"A Canticle for Leibowitz" is a science fiction novel set in a post-apocalyptic world devastated by nuclear war. The story unfolds over the course of centuries and revolves around the Albertian Order of Leibowitz, a monastic community dedicated to preserving knowledge and technology in a dark age where both are scarce.

The novel is divided into three parts, each set in different time periods. The first part is set in the 26th century, where the world has regressed into a primitive state following the "Flame Deluge," a global nuclear war. The Albertian Order, founded by the engineer Isaac Edward Leibowitz, diligently collects and safeguards remnants of pre-war knowledge.


Title: A Canticle for Leibowitz 

Author: Walter M. Miller Jr. 

Publishing Year: 1960 

Publisher: J.B. Lippincott & Co. 

Length: 10 hours and 55 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. Post-Apocalyptic Setting: The novel is set in a world devastated by nuclear war, where civilization has collapsed, and knowledge is scarce.
  2. Preservation of Knowledge: The Albertian Order of Leibowitz is dedicated to collecting and preserving pre-war knowledge to safeguard it for future generations.
  3. Cyclical History: The novel explores the cyclical nature of history, with humanity repeatedly rising and falling in its pursuit of knowledge and power.
  4. Clash of Science and Religion: The story delves into conflicts between secular authorities and the Church, reflecting tensions between science and faith.
  5. Moral Dilemmas: As humanity regains scientific knowledge, the novel delves into the ethical questions surrounding the use of technology and the potential for history to repeat itself.

5 funny quotes

  1. "If the Lord God had not created women, there would have been no dang fools in the world."
  2. "The calendar reforms, and the bringing of men from the stars, had upset the date, he supposed."
  3. "The Devil may not be so black as he is painted, but in this case, he was surely damnable tanned."
  4. "Long ago... there had been a millennium of peace and plenty. This, obviously, could not be allowed to happen again."
  5. "You would say that you do not understand. The priest says you do not have to understand. The Fiat was an act of obedience."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "You see, there were these dark ages... and nobody knew anything. But we've found out... and now we're going to make sure nobody ever knows anything again."
  2. "You never deny the darkness of your sins. You long ago took account of them."
  3. "The closer men came to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they seemed to become with it, and with themselves as well."
  4. "In knowledge that he would never use, the abbot, as the last of the Albertian Order, nevertheless gathered books about him in his cell."
  5. "The priest says that there is Hell, and the Hell is real... But he does not believe it. If he believed it, he would tremble."

5 dilemmas

  1. The dilemma of preserving knowledge and technology in a world prone to cyclical destruction and how it influences the destiny of humanity.
  2. The ethical dilemma of the use of knowledge and scientific advancements in a post-apocalyptic society with limited understanding of their consequences.
  3. The conflict between the secular authorities and the Church in the quest for knowledge and control over the future direction of civilization.
  4. The moral dilemma faced by individuals, especially members of the Albertian Order, in balancing their spiritual beliefs with the secular world's complexities.
  5. The existential dilemma of humanity's existence and purpose in a world marked by recurrent calamities, and the quest for meaning amidst uncertainty.

5 examples

  1. Isaac Edward Leibowitz - The founder of the Albertian Order, a former electrical engineer who later became a monk.
  2. Brother Francis Gerard of Utah - A young monk in the Albertian Order, who becomes instrumental in the discovery of the Leibowitz blueprint.
  3. Thon Taddeo Pfardentrott - A secular scholar and scientist who visits the abbey and becomes involved in the quest for knowledge.
  4. The Flame Deluge - The nuclear war that devastated the world, leading to the collapse of civilization.
  5. St. Leibowitz - Isaac Edward Leibowitz, who is later revered as a saint by the Albertian Order.

Referenced books

  1. "Leibowitz Blueprints" - The fictional blueprints created by Isaac Edward Leibowitz, which serve as a central symbol in the novel.
  2. "Memorabilia" - The ancient fragments of documents preserved by the Albertian Order, hinting at the lost knowledge of the pre-apocalyptic era.
  3. "Einstein, Beethoven, Michelangelo: A Prognostication" - A fictional treatise written by one of the monks, reflecting on the potential for future greatness.
  4. "The St. Leibowitz Preliminary Questionnaire" - A satirical fictional text depicting the bureaucratic nature of the Church.
  5. "Machina speculatrix" - A Latin phrase from a fictional work, describing the Time Observers and their role in the novel's narrative.

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"Long ago... there had been a millennium of peace and plenty. This, obviously, could not be allowed to happen again."

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