A YEAR AS A LION by Eric Roman


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Suburban history professor and Hungarian death-camp survivor Paul Brenner is stifled by the pious liberalisms of his fellow well-off Jews. He yearns to ""live a year as a lion""--Nietzsche--""rather than a hundred years as a sheep."" He gets his chance. An intelligence agency (he presumes it's the CIA) arranges for him to go to Hungary as an exchange research scholar, but actually he'll be a ""gray agent""--a spy who's visible and has a legitimate cover. Once in Budapest, his mission proves puzzling: he's asked to impersonate a legendary and incognito Jewish poet, Zvi Moshe, whose eloquent work about the ""Jews of Silence"" has attracted great attention in the U.S. A delegation of American rabbis comes to invite him to make an American tour, which he's instructed by the higher-ups to accept. The tour proves wildly successful, an emotional and revitalizing experience for American Jews reintroduced to the stubborn claims of their chosen-ness. But then Paul is abruptly paid for his time by the agency and left stranded. Enter the FBI. Paul is under arrest as a foreign agent, having taken money from the nogoodniks. Zvi Moshe's image is destroyed--""JEWISH FOLK HERO FOREIGN AGENT?""--which seems to have been the aim all along. It was all an elaborate set-up, Brenner as chief dupe. Roman's plotting holds back the boil adroitly, yet his preachy tone and attenuated dialogue often makes this book feel like A Year As A Reader. Still, for thriller-fans with an interest in Roman's earnest ideas about Jewishness--an unusual two-in-one package.

Pub Date: Nov. 10th, 1978
Publisher: Stein & Day