UNAMBO by Max Brod


Email this review


An involved and wordy fable which tangles with the problem of man's dual nature, symbolized in this case by the struggle of an Israeli intellectual to achieve a peaceful neutrality of soul through a diabolical time-space machine. Paul Helfin, a middle-aged film director in Israel, continually lashes out against the strain of his dizzy wavering between the attractions of a self-centered life and the ""purifying"" life of suffering and sacrifice. A supernatural machine, introduced by a huge, roach-like ""man of influence"", is the medium by which Helfin is able to live two self-sufficient lives simultaneously on two separate planes of existence. In one, he is ensnared by the beautiful, false Bianca, a fascinating mistress in Tel Aviv, who was a collaborationist; he is surrounded by viperous black marketeers who feed on a battling Israel; and he is at last blackmailed into leaving the country. Yet he finds spiritual strength and true happiness in the other life as an officer in an organization of Israeli fighting men striking against British-incited Arab troops and protecting their hard-won settlements. In the clear-headed courage of his nephew, Gad; in observing the fortitude of elderly emigres; and in the crucible of positive action, Helfin at last realizes the good life. However it is not for man to be thus split in two, to be shorn of the necessity for decision, and Helfin is finally released by sacrifice in one life and by a heart attack in the other. It is unfortunate that the details of the Israeli background, so vividly realized, and the engrossing development of the problem of man's two-fold nature in modern times are obscured by an unwieldy science-fiction device, the theosophist jargon and pulp-derived manifestations. A straddle of the philosophical and science-fiction novel which is not signally successful in either.

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Young