Alex 's Reviews > The Bible: Authorized King James Version with Apocrypha

The Bible by Anonymous
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Oct 17, 11

bookshelves: fantasy
Read in October, 2011

* this review contains spoilers*

This book is one of the most famous, and certainly one of the most intriguing historical family dramas ever written. Psychologically and emotionally it is in many ways "ahead of its time", charting as it does the life, loves and turbulent relationships of a father and son over a period of 1,000 years. The structure of the book is near genius, splitting the story into two main sections "The Old Testament" which looks at the life of the father and the "New Testament" focussing mainly on the son. What I particularly liked about this was the way the section forces us, as readers to reshape, reinterpret and re-evaluate the story as it was initially told by God. It's in some ways a very freudian tale, God, being single and lonely tries to ingratiate himself to a tribe of people but eventually becomes too domineering and controlling and they eventually reject him. Naturally he gets angry and upset with these people and the first section plays out as a battle of intellectual and emotional wits between God (aka Yahweh) and the Jews. Feeling rejected God eventually has an affair with Mary, giving birth to Jesus, but finding Jesus a less vengeful, more rounded individual who won't help him punish the Jews but keeps preaching instead about love and turning the other cheek, he ends up denying his love for Mary and engineering Jesus -his own son's - death. In the end, family drama blends with gothic horror as Jesus rises from the dead and eventually finds a way to forgive his father for the pain and torture that he put him through.

This is a simplification of the plot. What's so great aout this book are the myriad subplots and sidestories and clever narrative strategies that are used throughout. For instance this book gives us some of the most classic examples of the unreliable narrator. If Jesus' story questions the original Yahweh/God tale then the further layers of subtlety that are added on by the fact that every single chapter/section is written by someone else who may or may not have known Jesus, may or may not have understood his story correctly, or may simply be making it all up, is genius. For instance, Jesus' initial tale is told four times from different perspectives and some of the events overlap or have differing perspectives. The introduction of a further character "Paul" who attempts to take Jesus' tragic story and profit from it as a kind of popularity contest, often putting words into Jesus mouth and convincing others that they should create some kind of "cult" around him truly adds to the atmosphere of the book, creating a real sense of dread and paranoia that only HP Lovecraft was to match several thousand years later.

It may be a bit of a chore to read the opening "Old Testament" section for many since there aren't many good or heroic characters which the reader can relate to. Whilst there is love and romance in the book the main thrust of the story is dominated by Yahweh and his spite and vengeance, and generally his nefarious plans come to fruition. For instance, in one section he torments and plagues an innocent man, Job, destroying his possessions and his offspring and plaguing him with disease just to prove that he's in control. Regardless Job continues to love and forgive God (a theme picked up by Jesus in the latter half of the book). Ultimately though, what made this initial section so intriguing for me was the realistic psychology and the way the narrators of the stories handle living their lives in fear of a tyrant. Yahweh is clearly a paranoid, deluded schizophrenic psychopath trying himself to come to terms with his own mental illness and people's continued rejection of him. It's quite touching that he's accepted by the Jews repeatedly, despite his crimes against them (and the other tribes that he continually insists that the Jews destroy on his behalf in fits of deluded righteous anger). It's certainly an exciting section in many ways but it can be hard to stomach at times.

Most modern readers are probably going to prefer book two, for its contrasting whimsy and optimism. Jesus is a decent, loveable guy who doesn't have a bad word to say about anyone, even his horrible neighbours. Given his father's temperament his kindness and mild-mannerdness is surprising although it's clear at times that he's inherited some form of mental illness as he often quotes himself as being his father. Like his father he has a desire to lead and to control but he does so in more subtle ways even if by the end of the book there are suggestions that he too would bring hellfire on all of those who do not follow him. Ultimately one has to conclude that Jesus is overcompensating for his father's ill mannered aggressive "love" and that he's perhaps a little naive in the ways of the world. His meekness eventually gets himself killed and his followers persecuted in ways that one feels could have been avoided.

To conclude, then, this is perhaps the perfect book, the ultimate story of love and betrayal, a sweeping epic with a historical background (even for its times, this stuff was "history" taking place hundreds of years before the book was written) with a psychological depth that Tolstoy would - must - have envied and with an eye to postmodern narrative conepts I think may have had an influence on the likes of Pynchon and Delillo. I can't do it justice in one short review, everyone should read and learn from this book.
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