Saturday, April 18, 2009

In a single heart is a whole world contained....

"Into One Grain, there come a hundred harvests
In a single heart is a whole world contained."

This beautiful verse opens one of the chapters of the amazing (hi)story about Sarajevo Haggadah written by Geraldine Brooks. The novel, though fictional, tells the enchanting story of one of the most important manuscripts of Jewish Mediaeval art of book making. The book, valued today at about 700 million US dollars, remains in Sarajevo's National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina.


If you want to explore more illustrations from the Haggadah go there.




"People of the Book" is a very good reading, particularly in the time of Passover - what was my case in 2009...

The story evolves in fascinating way - it is written in the reverse time order. We go with the narrator back into history, and at any moment we see how the PAST imprints its mark on the PRESENT. And as we go deeper into the past, the more fascinated and mysterious the story becomes.

Beyond the narration, the message behind the book is about tolerance and cohabitations of all three great Abrahamic religions. The oldest story in the book comes from the famous Convivencia period in Spain's history - almost 800 years of relative tolerance between Muslims, Jews and Christians. The book tells also the story of 1492 expulsion of Jews from Spain and their migrations through Europe....

I must, however, admit that there is something in the book that puts some shadow on the authors's intentions or on something I could call her "good taste". I do not want to spoil the book for its future readers, so I will stay mute about it. I must only say, that at some places of the book author went into a kind of storytelling that leaves a taste of distaste to say the least. I hope she (Brooks) did not go there because of the need of XXI century mass readers ....
I will not write what I have in mind, though. If you want to know, ask me. I will tell you in private....





4 comments:

  1. Mirek, this is a gorgeous review - especially with images from the real Haggadah, and the background on the Convivencia period. Portrayals of how people survived together through history are so seldom told, but so essential...and this is beautifully expressed, as a deep truth, through your quote.

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  2. Anonymous4:30 AM

    I would like to know what you found distasteful and wondering if my opinions jibe with yours. also, do you know if the above quote is original or a transcription from the torah or other holy work?
    Thank you. slrossi@rcn.com

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  3. There was a scene of sexual contact that was in stark contrast to the climate and setting of the action. Anyone who knows a bit of Jewish traditional culture in those times would find these scene as obscene and almost impossible to happen....

    As for the quote - no it is not from Torah.
    I guess I once found the source, but I just forgotten it ...
    If I find it - I will send it to you !

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