On the Edge of Infinity

A Biography of Michael D. O'Brien

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This book tells the story of Michael O'Brien, one of the most popular Catholic novelists and painters of our times. It covers his life from his childhood in the Canadian Arctic to the crucial decision in 1976 to devote himself wholly to Christian sacred arts, followed by his inspiration to write fiction and his best-selling apocalyptic novel, Father Elijah. The story then continues to the present with explorations of O'Brien's other works.

O'Brien's life is one of struggle against all odds to reestablish Christian culture in the materialist void created by the modern Western world. It is a timely reminder of hope in trials and sufferings, of endurance during marginalization and poverty. This is the first biography of O'Brien, and it also provides an introduction to his novels, paintings, and essays.

The author, Clemens Cavallin, was granted unrestricted access to Michael O'Brien's personal archive, including his diary from the late 1970s until the present day. By revealing sides of O'Brien's interior creative life--including mystical experiences, spiritual battles, and illuminations—he has painted a portrait of a contemporary visual and literary artist whose inspiration arises from an intense fusion of imagination and active faith.

Clemens Cavallin

Clemens Cavallin is Associate Professor in Religious Studies at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. He is also an artist who studied at the Valand Art Academy in Gothenburg, and he paints mostly portraits and works commissioned by churches. He is married and has six children.


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"Michael O'Brien is, I believe, the greatest living Catholic novelist, so it is high time someone wrote his biography. Fortunately, Clemens Cavallin is up to the task. The story is clear, comprehensive, compassionate, and character-driven. There are not many people in the world who are more worth meeting than Michael O'Brien."
— Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy, Boston College; Author, Doors in the Walls of the World

"It is a rare experience to read a biography whose subject comes alive as one turns the pages. Cavallin brings his gifts as a writer, but also his profound sympathy with his subject. On the Edge of Infinity ranks among the great biographies."
— Richard Bastien, Book Review Editor, Convivium magazine

"An intriguing and eloquent book about an intriguing and eloquent man. Fans of Michael O'Brien's books will not be disappointed by this meticulously researched treatment of his life story so far. Clemens Cavallin has captured with great sensitivity and flashes of humor the twists and turns of an extraordinary life lived for Christ amid the tumult of a rapidly secularizing world."
— Fiorella De Maria, Author, The Sleeping Witness: A Father Gabriel Mystery

"Clemens Cavallin illuminates Michael O'Brien's development as author and artist.  He describes the twenty-one-year-old's conversion experience and the thirty-four-year-old's crisis with fatigue, insomnia, and thousands of dollars of unpaid bills. We learn how O'Brien envisioned his popular Father Elijah novels, with a Jewish-turned-Christian protagonist and a cultured Antichrist, and his greatest work, Island of the World, set in Croatia and Bosnia."
— Marvin Olasky, Editor in Chief, World magazine

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