The Trial of Luther by Daniel Olivier (Mowbray £4.95) Historians, as is their wont, will continue to argue about Luther's originality, his political stance, his place in the transformation of the medieval world into the modern.
But his fame rests assured. If not the pioneer, if only part of the "Spontaneous Reformation" which hit the Catholic Church at the same time in isolated patches, the weight and vehemence of his writings, the very power of his name and the influence of his personality make him one of the most familiar of historical figures.
To many Catholics, however, Luther's is still a name which evokes a picture of harsh Germanic Protestantism and the beginnings of a process which led to the disintegration of the Church's unity.
This book, a translation of a work by a French Catholic priest, attempts to present Luther's essential conscientiousness — and deep desire for true Christian values -in his trial, his dealings with a Church which had grown too worldly and too mechanical.
The book's subject is Luther, not Lutheranism, and the man is always more appealing than the movement. Olivier's Luther comes to life in a work which is not only penetrating and informed but energetic and imaginative — qualities not always apparent in the growing library of Luther studies.
This book will be of great value in the removal of historical prejudices, on both sides which so often still surround studies of the Reformation. More importantly it reflects a growing interest in the future of the Church. The insights of the early reformers, not yet transformed into a sectarian fanaticism, are insights which go to the heart of the matter of Church unity and what the Church is all about.
It would, perhaps, be too violent a volte-face, and certainly a historical fall from grace, to present Luther as a
prophet of the coming "Great Church" which would transcend time and politics. But this book does show him to have been not only an important and positive figure in the developing history of Europe but also of the Catholic Church, Apostolic and reforming.
The High Book of the Grail, translated by Nigel Bryant (D. S. Brewer / Rowman and Littlefield L10).
The High Book of the Grail, or Perlesvaus, is a 13th century version of the greatest of Arthurian quests. It is oddly unlike the others, and its use of Glastonbury traditions has commended it to some of the wilder avalonian theorists. Nigel Bryant's translation has an introduction summing up the findings of various scholars.