Muck

Deror Burshṭain

Book - 2018

In a Jerusalem both ancient and modern, where the First Temple squats over the populace like a Trump casino, where the streets are literally crawling with prophets and heathen helicopters buzz over Old Testament sovereigns, two young poets are about to have their lives turned upside down. Struggling Jeremiah is worried that he might be wasting his time trying to be a writer; the great critic Broch just beat him over the head with his own computer keyboard. Mattaniah, on the other hand, is a real... up-and-comer--but he has a secret he wouldn't want anyone in the literary world to know: his late father was king of Judah. Jeremiah begins to despair, and in that despair has a vision: that Jerusalem is doomed, and that Mattaniah will not only be forced to ascend to the throne but will thereafter witness his people slaughtered and exiled. But what does it mean to tell a friend and rival that his future is bleak? What sort of grudges and biases turn true vision into false prophecy? Can the very act of speaking a prediction aloud make it come true? And, if so, does that make you a seer, or just a schmuck? -- Provided by publisher.

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Location Call Number   Status
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Subjects
Genres
Magic realist fiction
Novels
Published
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2018
Edition
First American edition
Language
English
Hebrew
Item Description
"Originally published in Hebrew in 2016 by Keter, Israel, as Ṭiṭ.
Physical Description
406 pages ; 21 cm
ISBN
9780374215835
0374215839
Main Author
Deror Burshṭain (author)
Other Authors
Gabriel Levin, 1948- (translator)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Israeli novelist Burstein's fever-dream retelling of the biblical Book of Jeremiah set in an alternate present-day Israel imagines the weeping prophet as a fitful poet in a turbulent time. We first meet young Jeremiah as he is being beaten with his own computer keyboard by a cruel and exacting literary critic for sins against the Hebrew language. Taking refuge at his parents' place in the Jerusalem suburbs, he is surprised to discover within himself an abrasive new voice that he uses to disturb the patrons of the Bookworm cafe. Real estate development is out of control. Idolatry at home altars and, especially, in the media is rampant, and the Lord promises vengeance. Meanwhile, Jeremiah's ambitious nemesis Mattaniah—tattooed, muscular, also a poet—is about to become king. Outside the city walls, the Babylonians are amassing, and it won't end well. Burstein manages to wrest Pynchonian satire from biblical eschatology, and his narrative is frequently funny and sometimes opaque. The prevailing sentiment, as Jeremiah's warnings go unheeded by his fellow light-rail commuters, is an all-too-familiar sense of anxiety about an uncertain future. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Two poets vie in a Jerusalem at once contemporary and biblical, with Jeremiah beginning to doubt his abilities and Mattaniah emerging as a star even as he hides a secret: his late father was king of Judah. Then Jeremiah has a vision of Jerusalem's destruction that he's loath to share with Mattaniah, who might think he's nuts. Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Divided into three parts—"Jehoiakim," "Jehoiachin," and "Zedekiah"—this retelling of the biblical story of Jeremiah starts off with a hilarious interlude between the literary critic Broch and the erstwhile poet student Jeremiah, the prophet who foretold the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Mattaniah, the brother of the current King of Judah and among Jeremiah's poetry circle, offers a narrative counterpoint to Jeremiah's plight. The novel is set in a quasimodern ancient Jerusalem about the time of King Nebuchadnezzar. The second section, named for the son of King Jehoiakim, culminates in the first Babylonian invasion. In the third and briefest chapter, Mattaniah, renamed Zedekiah, presides as the latest Hebrew king over the final destruction of Jerusalem. The context of subjugated cultures provides incisive commentary about state power and control, repeatedly expressed in authoritarian name changing. VERDICT Gritty realism intermixes with historical allusion, allowing the work to function on various levels. The transmogrification of ancient events into a modern context creates a gripping world of hyperrealistic abandon; recommended for intrepid readers. [See Prepub Alert, 5/4/18.]—Henry Bankhead, San Rafael P.L., CA Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

According to the rabbis, the time of Jewish prophecy ended long ago; Burstein's richly inventive novel challenges this notion by setting the story of prophet Jeremiah in an Israel that is simultaneously then (the reign of the last kings of Judah) and now (the Babylonians have tanks; the Jerusalemites go into exile via light rail). Jeremiah, a failed poet with a dead sister and a vegan mother, doesn't want to prophesy exile and destruction, especially since the last king is his childhood friend and fellow poet, but what can he do? The place is epically corrupt: children are sold like chickens to be slaughtered (in imagery reminiscent of Nazi gas "showers"), everything runs on bribes, people disappear into prisons, and even the architecture is barbaric and garish. It's hard not to read this as a parable for today's Israel and the struggle over Palestine. Near the end, Jeremiah is thrown into a pit: he emerges covered in the titular muck, "Godless, without angels, without prophecy... the pit remained within him." Burstein (Kin) may not be hopeful, but in this long, tangled, and occasionally obscure novel, he has found a way to speak, as prophets and novelists do, of present, past, and future, what was and what might be. (Nov.) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Two young poets living in Jerusalem have their lives disrupted when one gets beaten over the head by a renowned critic and the other is forced to keep secret the fact that his late father was king of Judah.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

In a subversive modern retelling of the Book of Jeremiah, two young poets living in Jerusalem have their lives disrupted when one gets beaten over the head by a renowned critic and the other is forced to keep secret the fact that his late father was kingof Judah.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

“Those who lament that the novel has lost its prophecy should pay heed and cover-price: Muck is the future, both of Jerusalem and of literature. God is showing some rare good taste, by choosing to speak to us through Dror Burstein.” —Joshua Cohen, author of Moving Kings and Book of Numbers In a Jerusalem both ancient and modern, where the First Temple squats over the populace like a Trump casino, where the streets are literally crawling with prophets and heathen helicopters buzz over Old Testament sovereigns, two young poets are about to have their lives turned upside down. Struggling Jeremiah is worried that he might be wasting his time trying to be a writer; the great critic Broch just beat him over the head with his own computer keyboard. Mattaniah, on the other hand, is a real up-and-comer—but he has a secret he wouldn’t want anyone in the literary world to know: his late father was king of Judah.Jeremiah begins to despair, and in that despair has a vision: that Jerusalem is doomed, and that Mattaniah will not only be forced to ascend to the throne but will thereafter witness his people slaughtered and exiled. But what does it mean to tell a friend and rival that his future is bleak? What sort of grudges and biases turn true vision into false prophecy? Can the very act of speaking a prediction aloud make it come true? And, if so, does that make you a seer, or just a schmuck?Dramatizing the eternal dispute between poetry and power, between faith and practicality, between haves and have-nots, Dror Burstein’s Muck is a brilliant and subversive modern-dress retelling of the book of Jeremiah: a comedy with apocalyptic stakes by a star of Israeli fiction.