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Percy, Walker (1916–1990)

  1. Nathan P. Carson

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc1068

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Carson, N. P. 2011. Percy, Walker (1916–1990). The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

Abstract

Walker Percy was a philosophically and theologically oriented novelist from the American South, whose work is part of the 20th century Catholic Renascence (along with Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Merton, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, and Dorothy Day). Born in 1916 in Birmingham, Alabama, to a family of established Southern gentry, Percy's short-lived career in medicine ended in 1941 when he contracted tuberculosis. During his sanatorium recovery (1942–1945), Percy discovered writers who challenged his positivist scientific worldview, inspired him to take up a writing vocation, and led him toward an eventual (1947) conversion to the Catholic faith. These writers, whose ideas pervade Percy's novels, include (among others) Kierkegaard, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Kafka, the French existentialists, Augustine, and Aquinas. Inheriting his “Uncle Will's” large estate and having left medicine, Percy married Mary (“Bunt”) Bernice Townsend in 1946 and assumed the writing life, generating most of his work from their home in Covington, Louisiana.

Keywords:

  • Percy, Walker (1916–1990);
  • theologically oriented novelist, from the American south;
  • the moviegoer, 1962 national book award for fiction;
  • malaise, as expression of universal sin;
  • malaise of fragmented selfhood