Email this review


As a recreation of Sumerian life, this is remarkably effective; as fiction, it is a disappointment. Amidst lengthy peregrinations through the streets of Ur, the plot emerges slowly and fitfully. Haran, ten, slips away from school to watch the return of his father's trading caravan. Suddenly acquisitive, he arranges with Jerah the Camel Driver to trade a blanket for a lump of gold. But Jerah's son, Uz, is intercepted by Haran's brother Naycha, in the act of carrying out the bargain. Lying about his paternity, Uz is dragged to the house of Illi Silli, the image maker, where his talent for sculpting is discovered. Haran is in disgrace and Naycha is ostracized by the other children for his interference. The next day Teresh, their father, leaves on family business, and Shamashazir, the eldest son, is in charge of the household. He has been concerned lest his father refuse to allow him to go on the next camel journey, as he had expected; his father is awaiting a sign from the Teraphim, or House God, who dwells in a stone image. Trying to learn how the Teraphim eats, Haran breaks the image, a dreadful sin supposedly removing the family from divine protection. Uz volunteers to replace the image and the children spend a harrowing night assisting him. The new image is in place before their father returns announcing that Shamashazir is to go on the trip. After the caravan departs, Haran confesses his wrongdoing, and Teresh, his father, fears for Shamashazir's return since he has not had divine blessing. The question is left open, the author hinting at a sequel. This massive accumulation of incident boasts little action, and our feeling is that it would have been twice as good if it had been half as long. But the flavor travels all the way.

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 1966
Publisher: Coward-McCann