Reviews

This beautifully edited book by Hugues Didier, a historian of Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier and of Catalan philosopher Raymond Lully, proposes a French translation of varied documents related to the four-year (1603-7) journey by Portuguese Jesuit missionary Bento de Góis in Northern India, Central Asia, and China. After a biographical introduction of Bento de Góis, with developments on the “disguise of the messengers and of the message” among Christian missionaries, the volume provides a selection of Latin and Portuguese-language texts that document the interest of Mughal India’s Iberian missions ― notably of Francis Xavier himself ― in the possibility of a Chinese Christendom, and the continuity of the missionary dream of a Christian Empire of Cathay distinct from China (notably by Archbishop of Goa, Aleixo de Meneses). A succession of letters by Bento de Góis to diverse correspondents opens wide perspectives on the traveller’s mood as a Muslim convert on the eve of undertaking his Central Asian journey. It is accompanied by varied testimonies on Bento’s mission from the Society of Jesus (notably different relations from the Italian priest Matteo Ricci’s Description of China, and from the same author’s correspondence). The third part of the book is made of excerpts from Ricci’s inquiry on the Kingdom of Cathay’s belonging to Christianity. The fourth and main part (pp. 153-282) is a historical file on some of the issues of Bento’s mission: the initial admixture of Islamic and Christian fantasies about China; Bento’s experimentation of ideas and methods elaborated by Francis Xavier’s nephew Jerónimo Javier (partly inspired by Lully); Ricci’s relation to Hui Muslims. In all, despite the extreme scarcity of materials emanating from Bento de Góis himself, H. Didier has managed to resituate his personal and intellectual venture in the wider context of Muslim-Christian contacts and relations in and around India, with particular sensitivity to the exceptionally rich fantastical production of the Society of Jesus at the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth century.

The Redaction
CER: II-3.5.A-313