Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fifteenth Sunday Salon 15.05

Just finished The GENIZAH AT THE HOUSE OF SHEPHER. It seems to me to be a book that is mainly about family history; a kind of quest for roots and belonging, which is caused by the appearance of a codex. This quest is important for the protagonist, Shulamit, since she has come to realise that she is going to be the last of her line.
'It was then that I realised I would never have children. For to have children you must have something to hand on. Either that or the fervour of beginning. I possessed no such fervour; and how could you hand on something when you are floating in a void? All I could give would be memories and longing, a sense of dislocation, a source of pain.'

At the centre are a couple of love affairs (hers and her father's) which have dictated the course of the Shulamit's life; and the book is, in some ways, a study and exploration of this too. I like the way an almost biblical (and sometimes an actually biblical) traditional narrative gradually merges with the modern day. Distant times eventually become the familiar events of recent history, and this helped me identify with the characters as the book proceeded. The story centres around the discovery of a codex; but this in itself is unimportant. It is the effect of the codex on the family that counts, and the way that discovery can shape and perturb. At the end of it I feel I have learnt a lot: about Jewish history; and also what it feels like to be dislocated and displaced.

Apart from doing a little housework all I have done is sat here and read. A very indulgent Sunday.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had indulged deeply in Jewish fiction of late and thought I'd leave it for a while and move on, but I have this one on the shelf and now I'm tempted to stay just a little bit longer.

Sun Feb 10, 05:11:00 pm  
Blogger Iliana said...

Sundays indulging with books has got to be the best way to end a week and prepare for the next! I finished a book this morning too and now I'm looking forward to starting a new one.

Sun Feb 10, 05:40:00 pm  
Anonymous Clare. said...

DGR: Thanks very much for visiting. I've read a little Jewish fiction in the past, but not so much recently, so this made a change for me.

Illana: Thank you to you too. I agree! Are you taking part in Sunday Salon? I can't see it on your blog...

Sun Feb 10, 06:03:00 pm  

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