El's Reviews > The Golem

The Golem by Gustav Meyrink
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's review
Apr 22, 2009

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bookshelves: 20th-centurylit-early, eastern-central-european-lit, horror
Read in April, 2009

A golem is not the Gollum of Tolkien lore. I say this because I already had to explain this to someone at work who got super excited because he did not know a book about Gollum had been written separately. Sigh.

A golem is an animate being made from inanimate substances, often like mud, etc. and the stories hail from early Judaism. The most common concept is that the Hebrew word for truth (Emet) written on a piece of paper is placed on the Golem's head, or in the mouth, which then brings the Golem to life. Removal of the letter E from the beginning of the word brings you Met, the Hebrew word for death. Basically.

This particular story about the Golem is particularly bizarre. It focuses on a jeweler, Pernath, living in a Prague ghetto. But it's not quite just about that, and honestly I'm not even going to try to describe it here as it's more dream-induced than justifiably stated here. I wanted to like the story more, being a German writer and popular Czech literature and whatnot, but I felt it really was beyond my comprehension. Like when someone you know is tripping his balls off on a wild hit of acid and you're stone cold sober, but you want to try to understand what your high companion is telling you because he's so insistent on the importance of it so it must mean something, right? But in the end you just feel sort of left behind because your friend is clearly somewhere else and there is no way to reach that, not in your current sober state. It's like that, sort of disappointing because you want to be there, you want to embrace it, but Meyrink was clearly somewhere else, somewhere way beyond Edgar Allan Poe or even Coleridge as he wrote Kubla Khan. The funny thing is I think Meyrink wasn't on some opium trip when he wrote this, but that's just how his mind works. I could be wrong. I have some of his other writing, which is strangely difficult to come by, so I'll see what else he writes about before making a definitive decision of his writing.

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04/23/2009 page 35

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Leah (new)

Leah ames (aleph-mem-tess) is truth; mes (mem-tess) is death; the first was inscribed upon the golem's forehead, and upon the erasure of the aleph, the creature died.

Also, if you ever have the opportunity (if you've not already), I highly recommend visiting the synagogue in Prague where Rabbi Loew conducted his business.

(I haven't a clue how relevant any of this ranting is to this book, though; I beg your pardon)

message 2: by El (new) - rated it 3 stars

El It's interesting as I keep coming across different versions of the story, which is why I added the caveat "Basically" at the end of that first paragraph. :) But you are the expert, definitely, so I'm glad you said something and I thank you for it.

I haven't been to Prague at all... yet. One of these times, hopefully. But the synagogue is definitely on my list of stops there.

Have you read this one?

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