In this postmodern novel, Josepher (The Complete and Extraordinary History of the October Surprise, 2009, etc.) imagines a pair of books—one a modern work on Eli Wiesel, the other an ancient work on Jesus—that could reshape the world’s conception of Judaism.
Brian Josepher (who shares a name with the novelist) sits in an apartment in Ashkelon, Israel, explaining the curious research projects that have defined the last few years of his life. His previous book, a bestselling and controversial unauthorized biography of Elie Wiesel, cast doubt on many of the Nobel laureate’s claims. Brian has since received death threats from a Jewish protectionist group called the Sicarii, such as “For those who worship in the Synagogue of Satan, justice comes.” He flees to Israel, where he researches Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian of Christianity’s early years. Brian comes across Josephus’ long-lost work Against Mark: On the Antiquity of the Jew Called Jesus. Published anonymously in 70 C.E., the book survived the destruction of the temple and was buried for almost 2,000 years. In it, Josephus purports to tell “the true history of this Jesus, and of those known as the apostles,” and it’s sure to prove even more divisive than Brian’s previous work. Presented as a work of literary criticism, author Josepher’s ambitious work cleverly manages to encompass biblical historicity, the Holocaust, and the conspiracies that plague both of these subjects, and it walks a fine line between satire and sincere engagement. Unfortunately, its ideas are far more interesting in theory than in execution. The vast majority of the book consists of discussion of minute discrepancies in the life and work of Wiesel, made all the more tedious by the fact that readers will be unsure how much, if any, of it is true. The promised Da Vinci Code–like Josephus storyline, when it arrives, is underwhelming.
An intriguing idea that collapses under the weight of its own conceit.