SOULS ON FIRE

PORTRAITS AND LEGENDS OF HASIDIC MASTERS

As in his novels and essays, Wiesel weights his approach to Judaic destiny and the holocaust he survived, as testimony, but here in these affectionate clusters of Hasidic tales and legends of his childhood, he further reaches toward new generations as one who "transmits. . . to close gaps and create bonds." The mystic Hasidic movement, which ran counter to a more formalized, academic Judaism in the East Europe of the 18th century was conceived (or so it is popularly believed) by "the Baal Shem," a hazy figure to historians but to the Hasidim a fountainhead "where facts became subservient to imagination and beauty." ("If it is true, as the Baal-Shem says, for man to hide the light of dawn. . . simply by shielding his eyes with his hands. . . he can rediscover it by merely moving his hands.") The second group of tales concern the great Maggid and his school at Mezeritch about which it was said that, whereas ali men can say God exists and is of this world, at "Mezeritch they know it." It was the Maggid who adapted the concepts of Baal Shem through the new idea of the office of the Rebbe, who offered almost supernatural powers as well as wisdom, who spoke for God and interceded for man. There are tales of marvelous appearances and even denunciations of God for broken promises (possible when God was so close, so bound in love). Throughout the tales of other great Masters Wiesel reenters a dazzling world of religious certainties and "everything is possible." A revivifying collection.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1972

ISBN: 067144171X

Page Count: 294

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1971

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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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