Vincent Pecora's Secularization without End offers a fascinating exploration of the stubborn lingering of that difficult-to-define phenomenon that we call “religion” in the work of three of the most celebrated novelists of our putatively secular age—Samuel Beckett, Thomas Mann, and J. M. Coetzee. Pecora's book is also, however, a thorough reimagining of the relationship between secularization and the novel form itself. While Pecora declines to claim that these three writers are broadly representative of the diverse forms religion takes in twentieth-century fiction—especially given that they are all, as he notes, relatively privileged white men working through a more or less Calvinist tradition—his challenging and nuanced reframing of secularization is likely to prove useful to scholars working well outside the essentially Calvinist tradition with which Pecora is concerned.

As his title suggests, Pecora treats secularization not as a process that will culminate in...

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