- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 4 hours and 13 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Random House Audio
- Audible.com Release Date: October 30, 2007
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B000Y4RS5M
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Gentlemen of the Road Audiobook – Unabridged
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Although relatively short, this is not always an easy book to read; you have to pay attention, and I did find my self back tracking on occasion to make sure I got what was happening, but well worth the effort.
Michael Chabon's "Gentlemen of the Road" begins in a 10th century caravansery with particularly choice insults at first attributed to a bird of scandalous vocabulary, which are quickly traced to a scarecrow of a man. His name, ironically, is Zelikman (Happy Man in his Frankish country). He turns out to be moody, tormented, a physician, a vagrant, superb at almost anything he does, of undaunted courage, and anything but happy.
The man insulted is Amram, an Abyssinian giant whose ruff of white hair proclaims him ferociously dangerous to have lived so long in his warrior's profession. Insult is followed by a well-aimed knife that pins a hat to a wall, by a combat that would be the envy of Cirque du Soleil, by the introduction of a foul-mouthed stripling Prince, Filaq, bent on revenge and being hauled against his will to his mother's country, we learn the scarecrow and the giant are of the brotherhood on the road, friends and partners------and this is just the first chapter.
The rest of the book follows the adventures and misadventures of the three, also involving among many others the remarkable horse Hillel, who is the ooffspring of a wild tarpan and a descendent of the Prophet's prized mare, an elephant who remembers a long-ago gift of a pear, and the Jewish Kingdom of the Khazars. Zeligman, Amram, most of the people in this marvelous book are Jewish, including, I feel sure, the horse Hillel and the long-memoried elephant counted as the tenth in a minyan, the number required for Jewish services.
The story hurtles from chapter to chapter, each marvelously titled in the style of the 17-19th century, until Chabon gathers all the threads in a satisfying (very) last chapter. Yet, is the ending really an ending? Zeligman and Amram are on the road again, living by their wits, Zeligman's skills as a physician, and a bit of honest sleight-of-sword. They are heading north to Regensburg, from which Zeligman had fled after a night of horrors common enough in those times and sadly not uncommon in ours.
Behind the mask of comedy in this story may be the twisted smile of tragedy, but life is what it is, and Filaq (the Prince), Amram, and Zeligman are like Faulkner's "....mankind shall not only endure but shall prevail." Is this putting waaaaay too much meaning into a short book about the adventures of two semi-vagabonds?
Perhaps. "Geentlemen of the Road," initially a New Yorker serial, was published in 2007, the year of Chabon's acclaimed "The Yiddish Policemen's Union." It may be a writer's joy-spree, like Virginia Woolf's "Orlando" which also explores extremes of identities. Yet Chabon's other books have intertwined their wit and mind-catching action with deeper questions and older stories. "Gentlemen of the Road" may too.
The illustrations are pen-and-ink and as far as I could check are by a current illustrator of "Prince Valiant." They are as good as the text and superbly imagined.
One does not have to be a Jewish to enjoy "Gentlemen of the Road", although it helps to have some knowledge of Jewish traditions and read more on the Khazars. For some readers, the topic and style may not be engaging; for others, I hope many others, this may be among treasures and delights---including the story of the vast library of the Khazars and what splendidly happened there.
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