I have been reading this amazing book (in paper) since June. It is a thick 800 pages tome, and the very first impression one gets is of the important physicality of books. Still important...
„The Book of Abraham” is partially factual partially fictional saga of Marek Halter's family. Marek Halter is Polish born French-Jewish writer and activists. For Poles he is famous for working toward reconciliation between Jews and Poles. He was also very active anti-communist activist (the first independent radio station used by Lech Wałęsa in 1980 was smuggled by Marek Halter to Gdańsk).
The book tells the story of Jewish family with origins in Jerusalem AD 70 during the destruction of the Second Temple. The forefather of all generations is Abraham the Scribe. We follow the paths of his progeny, and on the way we learn the history of Jewish Exile that started in the beginning of the first millennium and ended in XX century. The inseparable companion of the family through the ages is the scroll where the names of the family members are written and transmitted through ages.
Fascinating, colourful plot takes the reader to Alexandria, to Hippo, Toledo, Cordova, Narbonne, Troyes, Strasbourg, Benfeld, Soncino, Salonika, Constantinopole, Amsterdam, Lublin, Żółkiew, Paris, Warsaw and Oddessa... The destiny meets the family ancestors with many important historical figures like Bishop Augustine of Hippo, famous Torah commentator Rashi (at Troyes) or Gutenberg during the time of the invention of books. The stories are told by a very good and captivating narration. If author did not announce it, the reader would not be able to discover where the fiction ends and true account starts.
One of the most important motives of „The Book of Abraham” is about importance of writing and printing and devotion to books. Books are no longer only to be read — they become important elements of family survival, they shape generation by generation, they instil the meaning of life into the hearts of descendants.
For Europeans, who are convinced about superiority of their culture and civilization it is not an easy book. Even though Marek Halter did not write martyrology of Jews, it is hard not to think of the family dole as of martyrdom. Most of the history of Jewish exile is the constant escape. Even in Poland, where the Jewish life flourished, their lives was far from safety. We witness the relatively unknown and senseless Warsaw's Pogrom, and hostility toward Jews before the war, despite their effort to form the military units (many were formed) to fight against Germans. Even though Marek's and his parents’ life was saved by brave Pole during horrors of Warsaw Ghetto, when they returned after the war to then communist, Russian subjugated Poland — they were greeted with a mixture of hostility and contempt. So it is difficult experience for Pole or European to read passages about it. Yet — it is not Halter's invention. He writes in truth... I know it also from my family and my friends families war time and post-war time stories....
I was happy that in the days and years of distraction due to Web and eBooks, in months when I was listening to many audio books, I could find days and hours to dive into this fantastic book and commit o truly deep-reading :-)