It's 1580 in the city of Prague. Certain people in the city are spreading rumors that the Jews are making their Passover bread with the blood of Christian children. Jews are confined to the ghettos, and violence is growing. Rabbi Ben Loew wishes to help his people. In a dream he sees a hand of light write one word. Golem.
The man of clay can only be conjured by a tzaddik, of which Rabbi Loew is one. He fashions a figure out of clay and chants the spells of zirufim. The Golem arises. He is given life by the word emet written on his forehead. He has only one purpose: to protect the Jews. When that is accomplished, he will be destroyed.
But what if the Golem wants to live?
This dark Judeo-pagan myth runs along the same theme as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and many other stories of human hubris in creating life. Yet it has some disturbing elements that are unique to this story. For one, the cabalistic witchcraft that is used by the Rabbi to bring the Golem to life. This is not fantasy magic, which pretends that some extra-natural force exists in tandem with the real world. It's the use of real things, twisted to serve pagan purposes. Supposed righteous man Rabbi Loew stands in the middle of the carnage with his white beard and his tall hat like any garden-variety sorcerer.
And that's all without the mention of the Blood Lie, or men planting vials of blood and bodies of missing children in ghettos, or the Golem raking furrows in a crowd of angry men with a broken battering ram. This is not a pleasant story.
Nevertheless, some praise must go to it from a purely aesthetic standpoint. The prose is excellent, the illustrations are amazing. The intense three-dimensional papercuts accurately portray the depth and emotion of the story.
There's no denying the fact that this is a really cool book. The morbid tale is a caution against hubris. But the dark judeo-pagan cabalistic elements and dark, graphic violence make it fairly inappropriate reading for children. Adults may be the most appreciative audience for this story. Unfortunately, due to the medium, they are also the ones least likely to pick it up.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here
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