THE GOD-FEARER by Dan Jacobson


Email this review


 The tables of religious history are turned in this haunting tale about an old man's last days, in which he has to relive a craven episode of his youth that he had completely repressed--the latest from London-based writer Jacobson (the nonfiction Time and Again, 1985; plus several novels). Kobus the Bookbinder has reached the end of a long life in the vaguely medieval town of Niedering, with modest success in his trade and a family extended three generations to attend to him. He is troubled, nevertheless, because in addition to the memory lapses that become more frequent following the death of his wife, his home has become a playground for a pair of ghosts--children who are vaguely familiar but are dressed in the garb of outcast Christers, a religious sect largely purged from Kobus's homeland in his lifetime, by the God-Fearer majority to which he belongs. The recollection of a name long forgotten, Sannie, triggers a chain of memories: his first sexual awakening in the presence of a shy Christer slave girl during his apprentice years; her calm in the face of his passion, which restored him to himself; and his subsequent betrayal of the girl when she came to trial for allegedly bewitching Malachi, a sullen friend of his. The children- -the unborn descendants Sannie might have had if she hadn't killed herself after Kobus's testimony--sit in judgement on him, forcing him to acknowledge his complicity in her death and in the ensuing pogroms, spurred on by Malachi's unceasing hatred of the Christers. He realizes too that his cowardice marked him for life, keeping him from accomplishments and glory that might have been his--an insight that allows him to make his final exit. A delicate, masterful fable in which the shadows of memory, the ravages of old age, and the mirrored horrors of history intertwine.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-684-19660-3
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1993


FictionALL FOR LOVE by Dan Jacobson
by Dan Jacobson
NonfictionTHE ASSASSIN by Henk van Woerden
by Henk van Woerden