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April 23, 2007

Pilgermann - Russell Hoban

Pilgermann - Russell Hoban

There is usually a sense of masochism in reading Hoban's novels, but this was the most impenetrable and least enjoyable one I've encountered so far.

The lead character, Pilgermann, is a Jewish man living in medieval times. He is maimed by Christians and then outcast from his home and goes on a pilgramage to Jerusalem, meeting many people and things, some alive, some dead, on the way. He ends up a slave in Antioch, where he designs a magnificant mathematical design which is turned into a massive mozaic just prior to the famous siege there.

Some figures in the story are mythical, and some real historic characters, and it's all narrated by Pilgermann from the modern day perspective as he looks back from our century to his past life.

Hoban is endlessly creative, and he is showing his intellect off here outrageously with so much history, religion, philosophy and art that your mind boggles with it all. It is interesting, bizarre, horrific, and funny, but it's brilliance is it's downfall, as there is just too much to try and take in, and some of it really is very dry. A lot of prior knowledge of these subjects is also assumed, as without it, the points he is making go right over your head, and I just didn't have the time or sufficient interest to do this research.

So I wouldn't recommend this book unless you want a thorough pounding on early Judeo/Muslim/Christian politics, are not squeamish, and don't mind your novels having no real discernible point.

[Ps - this doesn't mean Riddley Walker isn't still one of my top 10 books ever]

Posted by se71 at 03:06 PM | Comments (0)