Martin calls this an ""historical novel,"" but fiction leaves hardly a mark on what is basically a stiff redoing of the...

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THAT MAN FROM SMYRNA

Martin calls this an ""historical novel,"" but fiction leaves hardly a mark on what is basically a stiff redoing of the well-known story of the premier figure in the 17th-century's Jewish messianic movement, Sabbatai Zevi. The Sabbataian manifestation followed the dark days after the great Chmielnetzski pogrom in Poland, when Jews all over the world felt that their fortunes had dipped so low that it could only mean the momentary arrival of the Messiah. Martin's Sabbatai is a desire-wracked Kabbalist who for a long time resists being convinced he's the Man, then goes at it full-force: altering the laws of the Torah, granting kingships of Israel to his most loyal acolytes, gathering thousands of the faithful, and then finally, under threat of death by the Turks, converting to Islam. The standard (and monumental) source here is Gershom Scholem's Sabbatai Sevi--which Martin seems to have only spiced up here and there with a pinch of speculative dialogue. Trying to make an already fascinating story vivid is a mistake that Martin, a scholar and not a novelist, may be forgiven. Despite the James Bond-y title, the fictionalizing here is mostly a distraction, the glare of a gloss; but the stuff of the story holds.

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 1978

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Jonathan David

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1978