An occasionally overwrought slurry of myth and mysticism that nevertheless addresses dire sociopolitical problems still...

THE SON OF BLACK THURSDAY

In a follow-up to his autobiographical novel, Where the Bird Sings Best (2015), cult filmmaker, comic-book writer, and novelist Jodorowsky (The Metabaron #1: The Techno-Admiral & The Anti-Baron, 2018, etc.) tells the surreal tale of his Ukrainian Jewish immigrant father, Jaime, and mother, Sara Felicidad, and his Chilean childhood in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash.

When Jaime and Sara’s store in Tocopilla, Chile, is robbed by a man claiming to be Jesus Christ, the couple, expecting a child, migrate to the copper mines of Chuquicamata in search of a better livelihood. On the way, they meet Rubí Grugenstein, the granddaughter of the copper mine’s American owner. Rubí quickly becomes appalled by the violent exploitation of workers and land. Her solution is to have a miner impregnate her, build a statue of a copper goddess, and, in a public ceremony merging Incan and Catholic iconography, toss herself and the statue into the mines. The revolution she hopes to incite with her suicide is swiftly crushed. Jaime and Sara return home to have twins: Raquel Lea and Alejandro. Soon after, Jaime embarks on a quest to assassinate Chile’s dictator, while Raquel Lea, spouting an impossible stream of nonsensical poetry, is sent away to her grandparents, who silence her with sweetened rice. Meanwhile, warring Communists and Trotskyists take advantage of Sara’s generosity, and the police torture her for her involvement with them. The spirit of The Rabbi, who haunted Jaime’s father and Jaime, now mentors young Alejandro, guiding him through a series of absurd ceremonies that heal the long-separated family after they reunite. Throughout these epic, farcical travails, the narrative repeatedly dwells on genitalia and their “effluvia,” among other sophomoric obsessions with bodily functions.

An occasionally overwrought slurry of myth and mysticism that nevertheless addresses dire sociopolitical problems still painfully relevant today.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63206-053-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Restless Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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