Criticism that enhances the appreciation of readers well-versed in the author’s work.

ELIE WIESEL

JEWISH, LITERARY, AND MORAL PERSPECTIVES

Close, scholarly readings of a master storyteller’s fiction, memoirs and essays suggest his uncommon breadth and depth.

The 1986 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, memoirist and novelist Wiesel (Open Heart, 2012, etc.) has been a profound thinker and prolific writer whose work reflects his experiences in the Nazi concentration camps. This collection encompasses “a broader range of critical perception,” showing how his Hasidic faith, his biblical interpretations and his meditations on the silence and solitude of God illuminate the central focus of his work on the Holocaust—on which the author has written about so often while maintaining the impossibility of writing about it. Among the essays, titles such as “Alone with God: Wiesel’s Writings on the Bible,” “Wiesel in the Context of Neo-Hasidism” and “Wiesel’s Contribution to a Christian Understanding of Judaism” reflect the variety of perspectives through which scholars approach his work, while the literary criticism of “The Trauma of History in The Gates of the Forest” attests to the multifaceted genius of his fiction. Since Wiesel has already been so widely written about and justly celebrated, this attempt to fill some of the cracks and broaden the discussion requires that readers already have a wide and deep familiarity with the author’s work. “[Wiesel] has been able to place the questions before the public in his own narrative form, that of the teacher,” writes Everett Fox (Judaic and Biblical Studies/Clark Univ.). “The model here is not the lecturer, nor the resident intellectual, nor the pedant. Rather, Wiesel brings his audience along with the flair of a storyteller, but a storyteller who knows how to go into the audience to pose the questions that are on, or should be on, everyone’s mind.”

Criticism that enhances the appreciation of readers well-versed in the author’s work.

Pub Date: May 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-253-00805-3

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Indiana Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

THE BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED

The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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