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The Jewish Messiah: A Novel Paperback – February 24, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (February 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143114972
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143114970
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,544,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mockingly irreverent and verging on the fantastical, Grunberg's satirical comedy featuring a contemporary messiah will amuse some readers and offend others. When Swiss teenager Xavier Radek meets Awromele Michalowitz, a rabbi's son, decides it is his life's mission to comfort the Jews to atone for their suffering. Idealistic and naïve to the point of foolishness, Xavier is a contemporary version of the Jewish folkloric character Gimpel the Fool. Never mind that his grandfather was a superzealous Nazi, and his mother thinks that You-Know-Who had the right idea in exterminating the Jews. Both young men acknowledge the erotic bond between them, first evidenced when Xavier undergoes a botched circumcision. As the action moves from Basel to Amsterdam to Tel Aviv in a series of farcical adventures involving violence, brutality, lust and jealousy, the novel reveals a world made up of bigots and complacent hypocrites. Grunberg's iconoclastic novels are bestsellers in Europe, where they have won numerous literary awards. He has a fine touch for the ridiculous and the macabre, but by the time Xavier becomes the corrupt prime minister of Israel and metamorphoses into a modern Hitler, this abrasive satire becomes an open wound. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Grunberg rejects self-serving existentialism, confronts real-world torture, genocide, terrorism, and personal crimes of the heart, and he infuses his visceral, wily satire with biblical fury."
-Los Angeles Times "Arnon Grunberg is known for writing incendiary novels, but...The Jewish Messiah pushes his bleak sense of humor into new realms....Much more than an impolite screed; Grunberg wants to incite dialogue, not controversy."
- Time Out New York


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Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars
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See all 9 customer reviews
The story was so-so, and the book was a bit boring and hard to get through, but I made it.
Leon P. Gilbert
All of characters face some of the most nightmarish situations ever conjured in fiction but their reactions are completely alien and inhuman.
Duke Marine
I was intrigued by the synopsis on the book jacket, but wish I had limited myself to just that.
T. Baker

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Duke Marine on February 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I'm torn on this book. On the one hand it was one of the most beautifully written things I have ever read. Some sentences I would read over and over because they were so beautiful and unique.

However the story...the story was good enough to keep me reading for the 400+ pages of the book...but I don't think it was because it was good I think it was because I thought maybe at some point it would make sense or get to the point. It was almost like the story was just the summary on the book jacket stretched out ridiculously with insane attention to mundane detail. I'd say 75% of the book doesn't move the story along.

Also the characters...they are incredibly 1-dimensional. Which is strange because the author delves into the inner thoughts and emotions of the main character extensively. But they are merely described, not explained. All of characters face some of the most nightmarish situations ever conjured in fiction but their reactions are completely alien and inhuman. Like I found myself waiting to find out that everyone turned out to be a serial killer or psychologically disturbed in some way. But they weren't, they were all supposedly "normal."

I suppose you could read social commentary into it. However, in my opinion, it doesn't make any such commentary very clear. Any message from the book would be completely a matter of interpretation and reading whatever you want into the text.

All in all, I sort of regret spending all of the time I spent reading the book because it failed to deliver any sort of point and wasn't entertaining enough for that to be the point. However it wasn't an unenjoyable waste of time as the writing was...poetic without being flowery. The author and translator are obviously masters of language. And I suppose the best praise I can give the story was that it was crafted in such a way that I can forgive myself for expecting there to be more to it than there turned out to be.
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17 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Dmitry Portnoy VINE VOICE on January 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Imagine Woody Allen and the Marquis de Sade had a child, not a bastard, but one they fussed over and nurtured and sent to the best schools: he might have written this horrible, vicious, hilarious, totally true book, whose tasteless provocations upon motherhood, philosophy, art, and friendship are matched by a quixotic cruelty to cheeses. The translated prose is like the best martini: ice-cold, and crystal clear, with an instant head rush, and the subtlest whiff of foreignness in vermouth. Beware: it is a very stiff drink.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By sophie on June 18, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was amazed at the gratuitous vulgarity of this book. I could find no redeeming element, and finally stopped reading two thirds through.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Welcome to the world of Xavier Radek, a high school teenager and grandson of a late Nazi SS officer living in Basel, Switzerland with a highly developed aesthetic sense and noble ambitions, his highest and most noble ambition being to take on the role of comforter of the Jewish people. Arnon Grunberg tells Xavier's story in easy-to-understand language (a fine translation by Sam Garrett) that is at times lyrical and richly poetic. Here are several quotes taken from the first fifty pages where we are introduced to Xavier's way of looking at the world:

"Soon he announced at school that the pursuit of beauty was his highest aim. For he had seen that human suffering was nothing but an emergency exit out of beauty."

"Beauty is a fine thing, but a person needs ideals that go further than aesthetics alone. Zionism was an ideal that fit him, a suit made to measure."

" . . . once you were dead you didn't feel anything anymore, not even pain. Xavier wanted to combine the advantages of life with those of death."

"Lust and suffering, those were the main ingredients of life. The rest was detail, subset, delusion."

Grunberg introduces us to a number of characters surrounding Xavier, or rather character sketches, since a few telling details of each person is all the author needs to set the tone of his comic, ironic novel told with a light touch as he touches on such dark subjects as violence, domination, sadism and masochism. Through the course of the novel, here is a sampling of the people we meet:

Awromele - Xavier's Jewish friend, companion and sometimes lover, who tutors Xavier in Yiddish, who has dark hair and pure skin and is seen by Xavier as having a drop of changeless beauty.
Read more ›
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The story was so-so, and the book was a bit boring and hard to get through, but I made it.
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