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Binding: Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-57131-305-8
Pages: 224
Publish Date: October 2011
Genre: Nonfiction

The Tree of the Doves

Ceremony, Expedition, War

BY Christopher Merrill

Taking several ageless questions—“Where do we come from? Where are we going? What shall we do?”—as his point of departure, award-winning author Christopher Merrill explores the related issues of terror, modernity, tradition, and epochal transformation. In three extended essays, Merrill observes the performance of a banned ritual in the Malaysian province of Kelatan; traces Saint-John Perse’s epic voyage from Beijing to Ulan Bator in 1921, and relates it to the China of today; and embarks on a trip across the Levant in 2007 in the wake of the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Merrill asserts that it is in this trinity of human actions—ceremony, expedition, and war—that history is formed; and that the political, environmental, and social changes we’re witnessing now presage the end of one order and the creation of another.

A brilliant and wide-reaching exploration into the history and texture of our current “Age of Terror.”



  • Read an essay from The Georgia Review about how Merrill’s travels inform his writing

  • Read about the connections between flight MH370 and The Tree of Doves in this book sample



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Editorial ReviewGoodreads Review

“Drawing on his literary gifts as an accomplished poet, Merrill provides a much-needed, truly illuminating perspective on these cultures, which is sadly missing from our mainstream media.”


“Christopher Merrill is on an ardent lifelong quest and luckily he is taking us along. His three journeys in The Tree of the Doves are deep,wandering investigations where the old world meets the new, where the person becomes politic, and where peace many times has just left the room. His capacious mind is great company and these are essays in the classic style, sojourns outward and inward, powerfully considered ethical wanderings from Malaysia to the Golan Heights. These embracing lessons in humanity, geography, and poetry make a special book.”

—Ron Carlson


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Christopher Merrill

Christopher Merrill's writing explores locations all over the world through poetry and nonfiction. The director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, his latest book is The Tree of the Doves.

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