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Recovering from the creative slump of Collin and Five Days in June, Heym is again recognizable as the vibrant author of Hostages and The King David Report--in this startling, bold, half-successful historical/theological novel. ""We are falling,"" the book begins: the ""we"" are angels, Lucifer included, cast out of Heaven soon after Creation. And one of these fallen angels is Ahasverus, who continues thereafter to show up in history as the Wandering Jew--ordered by Jesus to exist forever, to serve as a reminder of those who rejected Christ's divinity. An East German scholar is uncomfortably made aware of the Jew's reappearance as a shoemaker in contemporary Jerusalem; and four hundred years earlier, a Reformation-era German pastor, Paulus von Eitzen, finds the Jew (in yet some other guise) tormenting him, which leads to a vile, virulent, but apparently routine church campaign of anti-Semitism, Heym isn't subtle here: this is a very head-on indictment of Christianity's problems with the Jews, suggesting that Christianity may be inherently incapable of bringing about peace and justice; instead, murder and oppression are fomented. Also, by chopping tho allegory into such disparate time-zones, the book palls under an air of schema, rigidity, set-up. But many of the scenes are electric with imaginative courage--especially an apocalyptic reunion between Rabbi Joshua (Jesus) and God. (In a father-son confrontation of disappointment and revulsion, they discover that they have no use for each other.) And though too stiff and disjointed to provide steady narrative interest, this is fiery, passionate, mordantly discomforting work.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston