a blinding light, or a parting of the clouds

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Alex Coseff

Senior Member

I sort of understand the bit in bold. However, I just want to make sure I am not far off ..
Background information: A former MI5 agent embarks on a journey to Egypt (after his colleague' s and simultaneously best friend's death) which proves essential for his future life. During the journey he suddenly realizes he cannot go on like that (working as an MI5 agent) any more and decides to turn over a new leaf, i.e. train for the ministry and become a vicar.

G.M. Malliet: Wicked autumn
"Time shifted, collapsed. It was his road-to-Damascus experience, and it came not with a blinding light, or a parting of the clouds by an unseen hand, but with a calm certainty, in the most banal of circumstances."
What I 've inferred from the following bit: The time ("metaphorically") passed by (shifted), then suddenly stopped (collapsed)` suddenly there was a turning point in his life (road-to-Damascus); it wasn't a dramatic point?? (it came not with a blinding light) or parting of the clouds (this is definitely a metaphor... I am not really sure about the meaning) but it can't have been more straightforward (with a calm certainty) - he suddenly knew and it was that simple.

I would be grateful if you could help - either confirm or refute my assumptions and explain the meaning in bold).
Many thanks:)
  • Yes, the author is saying the 'realization' (conversion) was not so dramatic as Paul's, with blinding light, or someone else's with 'parting of clouds' [both of which*=extraordinary circumstances]; it came in ordinary circumstances as a sudden sense of calm certainty [specifically, he certain of "I must drop spying and become a minister."]

    *ADDED, for clarity.
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    I think (from the way he places his brackets) that Alex may have missed that "with" applies both to the blinding light and to the parting of the clouds. Both these are dramatic examples of how his realization did not come. There was no thunderbolt from the sky, with God commanding him to become a vicar. Instead it came in a calm, banal way.

    It came not with X, (n)or (with) Y, but with Z.
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