I, LILITH by Elizabeth Leonie Simpson


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 A feminist reworking of the Fall, by Simpson (Notes on an Emergency, 1982), that makes the exciting and provocative sound dull and ho-hum. Lilith, in Jewish folklore the first mate of Adam, narrates this story of ``how-it-might-have-been'' if history and theology had been written by women. Certainly no apologist for Lilith--who chose to leave Paradise and roam the world as a demon frightening pregnant women and perpetrating a great deal of nasty and malicious mischief--Simpson suggests that it was not Lucifer but rather Lilith, who, jealous of Eve and of Adam's love for her, tempted Eve. Disguised as a serpent, Lilith shows Eve the apple, then rapes her while she's eating it. After the couple's expulsion from Paradise, Lilith continues to meet Adam, a weak and silly man, on the sly; and when Eve and Lilith both fall pregnant, Adam persuades Lilith not to harm Eve. In exchange, he promises to rear Lilith's child, who is switched with Eve's. Accordingly, the innocent and very decent Eve raises the evil and half-demon Cain, while Lilith does a reluctant and halfhearted job of raising the good and wholly human Isaac. When Cain, jealous of his younger and nicer sibling Abel, murders him, he is punished by God with immortality and a facial disfigurement--the mark of Cain. Adam grows old and increasingly religious, establishing a complete liturgy and rite; Lilith finally tells Isaac of his true birthright and, in an uncharacteristic moment of humility, asks God to let the human and decaying side of Cain die so that he, as a full demon, might join her and Lucifer in hell, where God now imprisons her. And there it ends, as it might have been: Cain freed but Lilith ``forever captive.'' Impeccable though conventional prose and potentially provocative ideas--but all undercut by flat characters and pedestrian storytelling.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1991
ISBN: 0-912292-93-8
Page count: 176pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1991