Saturday, February 20, 2010

"There are no atheists in foxholes...."

A short excerpt from a new novel to be released in April. The characters are two African American Marines in the bush in Vietnam.

He was silent for a moment. Then he said "Ever'one here think it easy for me. I be this good little church boy from Mississippi with my good little church-goin' Mammy, and since I be this stupid country nigger with the big faith, I don't have no troubles. Well, it just don't work that way." He paused. Jermain said nothing. "I see my friend Williams get ate by a tiger," Cortell continued. "I see my friend Broyer get his face ripped off by a mine. What do you think I do all night, sit around thankin' Sweet Jesus? Raise my palms to sweet heaven and cry hallelujah? You know what I do? You know what I do? I lose heart." Cortell's throat suddenly tightened, strangling his words. "I lose my heart." He took a deep breath, trying to regain his composure. He exhaled and went on quietly, back in control. "I sit there and I don't seen any hope. Hope gone." Cortell was seeing his dead friends. "Then, the sky turn gray again in the east, and you know what I do? I choose all over to keep believin'. All along I know Jesus could maybe be just some fairy tale, and I could be just this one big fool. I choose anyway." He turned away from his inward images and returned to the blackness of the world around him. "It ain't no easy thing."
--Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, by Karl Marlantes (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press 2010).


  1. One of the finest statements of faith that I've read or heard - of my kind of faith anyway. If faith is about anything, it is to lead us back to hope after we've lost all hope. And how do we make the leap to choose faith over and over in the face of uncertainty as to whether the Jesus story is but a fairy tale? Grace upon grace.

  2. "The peace of God, it is no peace/But strife sown in the sod."

  3. "Yet brothers pray for but one thing/ The marvelous peace of God."

    Thanks to you and Mimi, I'll be looking for this book.

  4. Wow. Just wow. Thanks Rmj (and Mimi for the tip).