In Éric Vuillard's short, but powerful, autobiographical account Müntzer explodes onto the historical scene. His evangelical preaching is for "the whole world" not a privileged few. He doesn't translate the bible into the vernacular he teaches it to those who cannot read. "Is he insane?" ask his critics? Vuillard says "Müntzer is a voice. He cries out that, princes or servants, rich or poor, God moulded us from the same gutter mud, whittled us from the same sandalwood."
It's a voice of radicalism that speaks to us across the ages:
Behold I have put my words in your mouth; I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, and to destroy and to thrown down to build, and to plant... Try as they may to fight against you, a wonderful victory is prepared for the downfall of the strong and godless tyrants."
In words that send a chill down the spine Müntzer urges: "Dear brethren, stop your delaying and hesitating! The time has come, the summer is knocking at our doors".
Rebellion in language the peasants could understand. The summer is oft dreamed of, especially in the dark of winter. And so they came. Like they did in the Summer of 1381, when John Ball, Jack Straw and Wat Tyler nearly brought down the "flower" of English chivalry. Its a story told briefly by Vuillard to frame 1525 - to show that Müntzer and Ball's messages were not isolated ideologies, but living breathing hopes of thousands.
In Germany in 1525 peasant armies marched, laid siege, burnt manor houses and castles, and were massacred by the princes' heavy cavalry. Müntzer is taken to the block, but against those who tell of his cowardice at the end, Vuillard rails that those "legends come along to bow the heads of renegades" to "to make the tormenting voice sound within us, the voice of order." For Vuillard this was a life to be emulated, to be celebrated, not for Müntzer's martyrdom, but for his message of revolution.
It's a fine message, in a fine short book.
"Summer is knocking at our doors."