LITERARY REVIEW

Behind the halo

Bookwatch

By Anita Joshua

Behind the halo

CALL it divine intervention, but Garry O'Connor's biography of Pope John Paul II could not have been timed better. Slated for an April 2005 release, the book was on the stands soon after the third longest serving pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church breathed his last; renewing interest the world over in the papacy as television channels provided detailed coverage of his funeral and the age-old ritual of electing his successor.

Known more for his writings on stage and film personalities, O'Connor moves away from his beaten track to chronicle the life of one of the most influential popes of all times. Probably what drew O'Connor to chronicle the life of Karol Wojtyla was his involvement in Poland's underground theatre movement.

The author's preoccupation with the man behind the persona the world saw as the "Holy Father" is evident from the fact that the book dwells as much on the papacy of Pope John Paul II as it does on his life in Poland. But then, much is available anyway on his papacy. This book brings to the fore his early years in Poland through the national resistance to the Nazis, the choice he had to make between theatre and religion at a time when religious persecution was rampant, his clashes with Communist authorities... And, through his subject, O'Connor provides an insight into nearly 50 years of Polish history.

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