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THE FIRE GOSPEL by Michel Faber


by Michel Faber

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-84767-183-7
Publisher: Canongate

Faber (stories: Vanilla Bright Like Eminem, 2007, etc.) takes on Prometheus.

In this revisionist romp, Faber reimagines the mortal who stole fire from the gods as Canadian linguist Theo Griepenkerl, who makes an amazing discovery when he’s sent to Iraq to help preserve war-threatened historical artifacts. When a bomb destroys a museum, nine dusty scrolls are discovered in a sculpture. They are quickly recognized by Theo (who, of course, reads Aramaic) as a “gospel” written by Malchus, servant to high priest Caiaphas and an eyewitness observer of Christ’s crucifixion. Returning to the West, Theo successfully markets his translation of Malchus’s gospel, which states, among other unholy particulars, that the Son of God’s actual last words were, “Please, somebody, please finish me.” The scholar’s subsequent adventures in the publishing world, juxtaposed with excerpts from the inflammatory gospel, include sexual bliss with an accommodating publisher’s rep, a harrowing experience on a dumbed-down TV talk show, amusing parodies of “reader reviews” (complete with misspellings and typos) and an agonizing reading at a Manhattan bookstore. In an easily foreseen climactic twist, Theo’s affront to the sensibilities of good Christian souls who perceive Satan in every sentence of dust-jacket hyperbole (plus some who’ve actually read the book) gets him kidnapped by a pill-popping white Muslim and a courtly Arab. Nothing else in the book matches its witty, impudent opening pages, as Faber pads like an insomniac housecat, stretching out every joke to the very edge of infinity.

“Please, somebody, please finish me”? So saith the potential reader, we prophesy.