The protagonist of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time observes with wonder the comings and goings of the crows that roost in the belfry of the village church in Combray, his childhood home. For René Girard, one of Proust’s great interpreters, their mysterious flight, first departing from and then returning to the vertical axis of the steeple, suggests the movement of modern history—the crisis of aristocratic models, the growing servitude of individuals possessed by mimetic desire, and the final irruption of authentic transcendence. In this rich exploration of Girard’s insights, his French editor and longtime collaborator Benoît Chantre brings Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans into dialogue with both Proust and Girard in order to push to its logical endpoint the idea of a back-and-forth movement from chaos to order. History, Chantre argues, has been driven mad by the revelation of its sacrificial engine. The only way out lies in a transformation internal to the crisis itself—only that faith which is capable of hearing the One who speaks in the Law makes it possible to avoid the perpetual ups and downs of rivalry. Acting and revealing Himself at the heart of history, an intimate model “hidden since the foundation of the world” deals a fatal blow to the circle of sin. Authentic transcendence coincides with the eschaton, the moment when—according to Saint Paul—historical time implodes into eternity.
Benoît Chantre has written a volume that masterfully lays out the three major syntheses of mimetic theory while also breaking important new ground. His eschatological reading of Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans brilliantly shows the vibrant compossibilities—and the coexistence of apparent opposites—that are so central to understanding René Girard’s intellectual project.—Luke Burgis, author of Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life
Benoît Chantre has written a beautiful and profound book. He has attempted something new in Girardian research: to reread the entirety of René Girard’s thought from a few words offered toward the end of Battling to the End on médiation intime (innermost mediation), words attributed to Augustine’s Deos interior intimo meo. Chantre sees in Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans the culmination of Girard’s new conception of “anthropo-theology.”—Sandor Goodhart, professor of English and Jewish studies, Purdue University