Morte d'Urban

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First edition

Morte d'Urban is the debut novel of J. F. Powers. It was published by Doubleday in 1962. It won the 1963 National Book Award. It is still in print, having been reissued by The New York Review of Books in 2000.[1]

The novel tells the story of Father Urban Roche, a member of a fictitious religious order named the Clementines. Fr. Urban has developed a reputation as a gifted public speaker, but is sent by the superior to a remote retreat house in rural Minnesota. There he puts his skills to work improving the facilities and the local church.

The book has been widely praised. Thomas Merton called it “a valid and penetrating study of the psychology of a priest in what is essentially a spiritual conflict.”[2] Jonathan Yardley, in a consideration of the book in the Washington Post four decades later, praised it as “our great workplace saga,” comparing it favorably to Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt, calling it “subtler, wittier and much more elegantly written.”[3]


  1. ^ "1963 - - National Book Awards Fiction Winners". Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  2. ^ Thomas Merton, "Morte d'Urban: Two Celebrations"
  3. ^ Jonathan Yardley, "Morte d'Urban': Our Great Workplace Saga", The Washington Post, August 15, 2007
Preceded by
The Moviegoer
Walker Percy
National Book Award for Fiction
Succeeded by
The Centaur
John Updike