The Name

Author : Michael Govrin

Available : Rented
Age Group :Adults
The legacy of the Holocaust exacts another victim in this debut novel, which charts a woman´s religious frenzy and descent into madness. The narrator, who variously refers to herself in the first and third person, has a fractured personality reflected by the names she has been known by and the metamorphoses she has deliberately pursued. Named Amelia by her father in memory of his first wife, Malinka, who died heroically in a concentration camp, the protagonist becomes emotionally unhinged in childhood because she feels possessed by Malinka´s spirit. Attempting to rid herself of both the incubus of her namesake and what she sees as her own impure body, she changes her name several times, becomes Emily, then Amy, and flees from America to Europe to Jerusalem. Embracing ultra-Orthodox Judaism, she weaves ritual prayer shawls, hoping to earn redemption for the sin of living when talented musician Malinka died, and for promiscuously sharing her own body with men. Self-loathing Amelia starves herself, can´t sleep, hears voices and sees visions, meanwhile pouring out her thoughts over the 49 days of the Omer Counting, a period of ritual mourning. Israeli writer Govrin conveys her tormented heroine´s increasing dementia in a lush, lyrical monotone that mixes Amelia´s frenzied prayers with biblical passages and Kabbalic lore. Amelia´s betrothal to another yeshiva student, her deliberate sacrifice of the happiness that marriage with him could bring (instead, she will become the bride of God) and her encounters with various mystical rabbis are described in passages of suffocatingly sonorous prose. Though Govrin won Israel´s 1997 Kugel Literary Prize and the 1998 Israeli Prime Minister´s Prize for Writers, most readers may find it difficult to sustain interest in this essentially static and claustrophobic narrative in which the tragic end is foreordained and the narrow path there marked with a few revelations but no surprises. amazon.com

The legacy of the Holocaust exacts another victim in this debut novel, which charts a woman´s religious frenzy and descent into madness. The narrator, who variously refers to herself in the first and third person, has a fractured personality reflected by the names she has been known by and the metamorphoses she has deliberately pursued. Named Amelia by her father in memory of his first wife, Malinka, who died heroically in a concentration camp, the protagonist becomes emotionally unhinged in childhood because she feels possessed by Malinka´s spirit. Attempting to rid herself of both the incubus of her namesake and what she sees as her own impure body, she changes her name several times, becomes Emily, then Amy, and flees from America to Europe to Jerusalem. Embracing ultra-Orthodox Judaism, she weaves ritual prayer shawls, hoping to earn redemption for the sin of living when talented musician Malinka died, and for promiscuously sharing her own body with men. Self-loathing Amelia starves herself, can´t sleep, hears voices and sees visions, meanwhile pouring out her thoughts over the 49 days of the Omer Counting, a period of ritual mourning. Israeli writer Govrin conveys her tormented heroine´s increasing dementia in a lush, lyrical monotone that mixes Amelia´s frenzied prayers with biblical passages and Kabbalic lore. Amelia´s betrothal to another yeshiva student, her deliberate sacrifice of the happiness that marriage with him could bring (instead, she will become the bride of God) and her encounters with various mystical rabbis are described in passages of suffocatingly sonorous prose. Though Govrin won Israel´s 1997 Kugel Literary Prize and the 1998 Israeli Prime Minister´s Prize for Writers, most readers may find it difficult to sustain interest in this essentially static and claustrophobic narrative in which the tragic end is foreordained and the narrow path there marked with a few revelations but no surprises. amazon.com

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