Out on 14 January 2021

The War of the Poor

Eric Vuillard

Translated by Mark Polizzotti
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14 January 2021
9781529038576
77 minutes
Synopsis

Europe burns with protest. The poor demand to know: why not equality now, here on earth?

It’s been true for centuries: the history of inequality is a long and terrible one. And it’s not over yet. Short, sharp and devastating, The War of the Poor tells the story of a brutal episode from history, not quite as well-known as tales of other popular uprisings, but one that deserves to be told.

Sixteenth-century Europe: the Protestant Reformation takes on the powerful and the privileged. But quickly, it stabilizes, becomes more about the bourgeoisie. Peasants, the poor living in towns, who are still being promised that equality will be granted to them in heaven, begin to ask themselves: and why not equality now, here on earth?

There follows a furious struggle between the powerful, Protestant forces and the poor. Out of this chaos steps Thomas Müntzer: a theologian who chose to fight on the side of the underdog. A complex and controversial figure, who sided with neither Martin Luther, nor the Roman Catholic Church, Müntzer addressed the poor directly, encouraging them to ask why a god who apparently loved thepoor seemed to – bizarrely – be on the side of the rich.

As in The Order of the Day, Éric Vuillard examines in intimate detail a moment when Western Europe was in flux. Sifting through history, he extracts the story of one man whose terrible and novelesque life casts light on the times in which he lived. In the same carefully wrought language, with the same wry, ironic tone, Vuillard takes us behind the scenes at a moment when history was being written.

Vuillard is the master demystifier, who leaves nothing sleeping in the shadows. He is only civil when it comes to language, which he applies with a devastating irony and a grace that one rarely reads.

Grégoire Leménager - L’OBS