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Roland in Moonlight

Roland in Moonlight

By David Bentley Hart

386 pp

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About the Book

As everyone knows, the bond between homo sapiens sapiens and canis lupus familiaris has traversed the ages. But few could have anticipated the remarkable exchange here recounted between David Bentley Hart and a noble beast named Roland.

Roland in Moonlight breaks new ground within Hart’s already astonishingly wide-ranging body of work. Eschewing the rigidity of the human either/or, Roland’s diagonal approach offers secret illuminations and hidden affinities, as all and sundry come into his purview: paganism, dreams, language, myth, politics, American Christianity, Indian metaphysics, Japanese aesthetics… But perhaps most of all, the book is a kaleidoscopic exploration of the nature of mind and consciousness.

Woven through all this is a candid memoir, a story of loss and recovery, of personal trials and tribulations, with Roland “leading the way through the darkened rooms and the sporadic shafts of icy moonlight, his mottled coat a constantly fluctuating counterpoint of shadow and light”—a strange and sure balm for the soul.

Roland in Moonlight is a wholly unforgettable reading experience—a journey into the possible upon the wings of a heavenly discourse between man and beast, and the singular—indeed, blessed—rapport that guides their lives. It is impossible not to be swept along as Roland takes flight.


“This is a marvelous and absorbing book by one of the most singular thinkers and writers of our time. In his inimitable style, David Bentley Hart tells us something of his singular story, engaging with the deepest perplexities of thought while living through the sorrows and joys of life, all in companionable conversation with Roland. Marvelous: in that Roland is a sympathetic and wise dog, not quite a dog philosopher in the old cynical sense, not quite the hound of heaven, but a friend of man, with a finesse for things human and divine that abide and surprise, things many before us have known and that today we need as much as ever. Absorbing: the story engages us between touching biographical telling, deft dialogical exchanges with Roland, and searching dialectical explorations of philosophical and theological themes. It is hard to think of another philosophical-theological thinker who writes with such panache, at once singular and embracing. Very warmly recommended.”


author of The Gift of Beauty and the Passion of Being

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. I believed the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything was 42. When I became a man, I put away childish things. I now know that the answer to every question is Roland or, more properly, ROLAND-CONSCIOUSNESS—that naturally luminous, spontaneously liberated Spirit in which we live, and move, and have our being. In these last days, Roland has condescended to appear to none other than David Bentley Hart, whose considerable literary powers have been tested in the telling. Part My Dog Tulip, part Pale Fire, part Autobiography of a Yogi, Hart’s Roland in Moonlight is an instant spiritual classic.”


author of Jesuit on the Roof of the World

“Wow. Who knew dreamful dialogues with a dog could be so superabundantly disclosive?  Roland in Moonlight is mesmerizing, moving, and masterful, no less playfully delightful than profoundly insightful in its reflections on perception and consciousness, transcendence and limitation, poetry and translating, physics and metaphysics, relationships, suffering, healing, pathos, hope, and beauty. Overflowing with erudition that spans religious and intellectual traditions East and West, from the ancient world to the present, this genre-defying work literally could have been written only by David Bentley Hart. It is a revelation that will enrich the lives of every one of its readers.”


author of The Unintended Reformation

“A succession of Russian dolls nesting inside one another, David Bentley Hart’s Roland in Moonlight is a memoir, an apologue, a poetry anthology, a novel, a theological bastion against an ocean of fashionable nonsense, and a deep dive into mind versus matter—oh, and panpsychism, the collapse of wave functions, free will, Freud, Heidegger—the list goes on. The more you peel away, the more questions you will have. Questioning is itself the engine of this shimmering endeavor, which, like its author, is altogether sui generis. I suspect an infinite number of readings of this sly, elusive tale on the subject of re-enchantment with a world that has begun to lose its magic will yield no end to the plenitude it contains.”


author of Prelude to a Kiss and The Light in the Piazza  

“David Bentley Hart’s Roland in Moonlight, part memoir and part work of fiction, is a brilliantly ambitious and deeply moving book—lyrical and philosophical by turns—that centers on conversations between the narrator and his dog, the mighty-souled Roland, who, in differing from humans (he is at once more dispassionate and more compassionate), at the same time presents us with a model of what humans are capable of being and becoming. The conversations, ranging far and wide over a host of topics, from the mundane to the arcane, are interspersed with poems, some of them very beautiful, written by the narrator’s Uncle Aloysius, a brilliant creation in his own right. Charting the years of the narrator’s illness and partial recovery, Roland in Midnight is at the same time a palimpsest that sketches a symbolic movement leading from the loss to the partial recovery of Eden.”


author of As the Crow Flies 

“This astonishing book is almost impossible to characterize. Imagine that the Goethe of Faust II and Iris Murdoch had a love child who was raised in a Tibetan monastery. And then was permitted—because of the wisdom he attained—to come back in the next life as a dog. . . . Who would ever have guessed that there could exist a creature on this planet with more jubilantly inventive wit, literary panache, and philosophical bite than even the great David Bentley Hart? But here he is: Roland the poet, the cynic, and the guru.”


author of Freedom from Reality

“A marvelous and uplifting mixture of personal memoir, acute philosophy, political diatribe, and poetry, all addressed through dream-conversations with an erudite and affectionately sarcastic dog who is himself, we are to suppose, engaged in editing the verses of the author’s pagan great-uncle. Hart challenges the materialist and anthropocentric paradigms of Western modernity both by careful philosophical argument and by sharing his own experience of illness and depression. But it will be the image of the Dog Roland, perhaps an incarnate Buddha, that may do most to change his readers’ sensibilities, whether that dog is taken to be real, or dream, or simple fiction. A splendid addition to his published work.”


author of Can We Believe in People?

“Anyone who has ever loved a dog—which is to say, I suppose, anyone with a soul, excepting the allergic—must cherish this graceful memoir-cum-Socratic-dialogue of David Hart’s relationship with Roland, who is a very good boy, though, it must be admitted, not a proficient primatologist. It is a wise and witty book, a book to break hearts, and to mend them.”


author of Alien vs. Predator

“Dreams, dogs, death, exile, the nature of consciousness, fairies, and the deep unity of religions—this is Hart in literary voice, echoing the deep American tradition that runs from Hawthorne to Poe to Lovecraft—with a dash of anti-Thomism and some essential Christian-pagan rapprochement. This is a book you can relax into. It will bear you away on a sea broader and deeper than the one you’re used to. Hart is himself an exile from late modernity, as is Roland, the philosophical, koto-playing dog he writes about here. Exiles show us more about ourselves than do those at home in the world, and Hart shows us here a lot to be grateful for.”


author of Regret: A Theology

“A love of words, ideas, wit, combat, and truth fills every page of David Bentley Hart’s autobiographical tale. His many fans will find they cannot put the book down, as well as realizing it is tantamount to a credo. Those who want to dig into matters ranging over love and consciousness, animal intelligence and human suffering, alien life and divine beings, will welcome this entertaining, stimulating, and moving feast. A wholehearted recommendation.”


author of A Secret History of Christianity

“Interweaving autobiographical details with poetry, encomia to faerie, and metaphysical speculation, the utterly charming, sometimes startlingly intimate, Roland in Moonlight invites us to consider the mysteries of being, consciousness, loss, memory, and the luminousness of the natural world through the eyes (and nose!) of its magnanimously wise canine protagonist. With Hart’s signature complement of lush lyricism, droll acerbity, and melancholy whimsy, this welcome addition to his impressive canon deserves attention if for no other reason than the absolute delight it will afford its readers.”


author of Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Critical Appropriation of Russian Religious Thought

About the Author

David Bentley Hart is a scholar of religion, a philosopher, writer, and cultural commentator. His latest books are Roland in Moonlight, Kenogaia (A Gnostic Tale), and the forthcoming You Are Gods. His online journal is Leaves in the Wind at

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