In This Review

Why Angels Fall: A Journey Through Orthodox Europe from Byzantium to Kosovo
Why Angels Fall: A Journey Through Orthodox Europe from Byzantium to Kosovo
By Victoria Clark
St. Martin's, 2000, 460 pp.

Clark bases her book on a suspicion that Samuel Huntington's theme in The Clash of Civilizations is correct: the societies of Eastern Orthodox Christianity are a civilization apart. She then proves it to herself by traveling from monastery to monastery, country by country, from Cyprus to Russia. (Only Belarus and Ukraine are not on her itinerary.) Her conversations with monks, nuns, and prelates provide a fascinating glimpse into a world-view different from -- and often at odds with -- that of the West. Her well-told tale, greatly enriched by an impressive admixture of history, underscores the Orthodox sense of rectitude and its retained hostility toward the secularized West. But the reader is put on guard by Clark's dogged pursuit of the negative -- the blood thirst of the Serb clergy, the anti-Hungarian nationalism of their Transylvanian counterparts, the antisemitism in the ranks of the Russian Church, and the strange biases and provincialism of nearly all with whom she spoke. Nor is her case helped by an entertaining but often flippant writing style.