Natalia Holtzman

  • fiction October 08, 2019

    All or Nun

    History, Tolstoy insisted, is not driven by great men—the Bismarcks, the Napoleons of this world. It is constructed from an endless number of minute details, like drops of water, or grains of sand.

    The protagonists of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s The Corner That Held Them, recently reissued by New York Review Books, are not great men; they are not men. In fact, they’re nuns. The novel describes an unremarkable fourteenth-century Benedictine convent and what happens there.

    Not a lot happens. “A good convent should have no history,” Warner writes at the beginning. “Its life is hid with Christ who