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4.01  ·  Rating details ·  325 ratings  ·  20 reviews
He climbs a ladder to reach another man's wife and gives himself up to her beauty, but then Pilgermann descends into a mob of peasants inspired by the Pope to shed the blood of Jews. Alone on the cobblestones, he cries out to Israel, to the Lord his God, to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. He is answered instead by Jesus Christ. ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published January 2nd 2002 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published 1983)
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Mark Davess 'Pilger' is German for 'pilgrim', with a 'hard g' so that's what I'd base my answer on, especially as the name itself is like a surname of German deri…more'Pilger' is German for 'pilgrim', with a 'hard g' so that's what I'd base my answer on, especially as the name itself is like a surname of German derivation. I actually pronounced it in my mind like that too when I first read it, before I actually learned to speak German.(less)

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Average rating 4.01  · 
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Vit Babenco
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
For me Pilgermann turned out to be a real discovery – I never suspected that it would possess such intellectual and spiritual profundity and be so masterfully written.
Pilgermann, long dead – a spirit consisting of waves and particles – contemplates the vicissitudes of being…
As far as I could see, the will of God was simply that everything possible would indeed be possible. Within that limitation the choice was ours, the reckoning His. And He was in us, one couldn’t get away from Him, that was t
Sometimes you just have an affinity for an author and it seems that they can do no wrong in your eyes; that's how it is with me and Russell Hoban. I've read four of his novels so far, and while they've all been amazing works in their own way, Pilgermann might be my favorite. A less "difficult" read than Riddley Walker, but certainly no less allusive and filled with meaning. A re-read will be necessary for me to feel like I've extracted anywhere near enough value out of the words to be worthy of ...more
I'd like to say that I understood everything that Russell Hoban was saying in this macabre life/death story about a Jewish pilgrim travelling to Jerusalem via Antioch in the last decade of the eleventh century but no, I'm afraid some of it was just too complex. However it was an amazing reading experience and I understood enough to admire the originality of this allegorical tale and to appreciate how creatively Hoban examines such thorny issues as antisemitism, death, infinity, and the nature o ...more
Nov 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
I’m a huge fan of Russell Hoban but I couldn’t finish this one. It’s way, way out there. It was published in the early 80s but feels like something that could have been written twenty years prior in a haze of either spiritual or pharmaceutical intoxication, or both. The author describes it as a kind of sequel to his brilliant ‘Riddley Walker’, but I found it hard to make too many comparisons between the two.

The plot, if it can be said to exist, follows a jew named Pilgermann who is thrown to an
Ian Johnston
Jun 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is my favourite novel. Russell Hoban has better known books (like "Riddley Walker") but this is the best one I have read. His prose is poetic, and patterned throughout the novel. The story is told by the titular Pilgermann, a soul or ghost or collection of memories flitting about through time. He tells the story of his life, while occasionally taking time aside to visit the dream of a Pope or a painting. He was a Jew, who after sleeping with a married woman is ambushed by Christians and cas ...more
Oct 27, 2016 marked it as unfinished
Shelves: 2016
Okay, Russell. You win.

You baited me with your genius writing and then used that genius to write about maggoty corpses, icky sex, and icky maggoty corpse sex until I just couldn't stand it anymore. I made it to about page 70. Well played, my friend. Well played, indeed.
Daniel Polansky
A castrated Jew meets Jesus, joins the first crusade. A spiritual, one might even say mystical novel, about sin and God and meeting God and meeting characters from Hieronymous Bosch paintings. Didn't really do it for me but it certainly demonstrates the man's range. ...more
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this book as a young man and wondered whether it'd be as magical today, 30+ years later, as it was then. It is! Hoban's writing is beautiful and dense with ideas. I do not recommend this to others though because it is not a simple story and the topics are not necessarily pleasant - castration, war, death, the nature of humanity and religion. It also is a bit slow near the end. Nevertheless it's a remarkable work. ...more
Perry Whitford
Jun 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pilgermann is the iconoclastic story of a German Jew at the time of the first crusade in 1096. Dramatically castrated on the way home after cuckolding the local tax-collector with his wife Sophia (meaning Wisdom), he sets out on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

On the way he is accompanied by various spirits of the dead, including the beheaded corpse of the tax collector, the man who castrated him, the sow that ate his severed genitalia, a bear shot full of arrows, and the skeletal manifestation of de
I seem to have lost this book, so I'm marking it unfinished. To tell the truth, although I love Russell Hoban's work and wouldn't want to discourage anyone from reading his other books, I was having a hard time with it. If I do find it again, I'll skip over the wodge of medieval Jewish theology I was stuck on and try to pick up the story later. Yes, it is very weird even by Hoban standards. The verbal equivalent of a Hieronymous Bosch painting.
Jerry Pogan
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A dazzling often bewildering epic tale that takes place around the year 1097. Pilgermann is a young Jew who is castrated by a group of Christians. Upon his recovery he has a visionary meeting with Christ which sets him off on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In his travels he comes across a bizarre array of characters that are absolutely surreal until he takes a boat and is captured by pirates. He is sold into slavery to a Muslim but is able to buy his own freedom and becomes the Muslims companion. Th ...more
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ik heb dit boek voor het eerst ergens in de 80er jaren gelezen. Het gaat over een Jood, die tijdens een pogrom ergens in Duitsland in 1096 gecastreerd wordt en dan beslist om als pelgrim naar Jerusalem te gaan. Hij komt tot Antiochie, wat in 1098 door de kruisvaarders wordt veroverd en waar iedereen wordt uitgemoord op de bekende wijze. Het verhaal wordt verteld door de overblijfselen - atomen en stofdeeltjes - van Pilgerman vanuit deze tijd. Veel gefilosofeer over het jodendom, de christenen en ...more
Jan 15, 2018 rated it liked it
i mean. on the one hand it's got some very moving meditations on death and patterns, and occasionally has an almost endearing loony bosch-ian quality. on the other hand, the, uh, the ick factor. Our Hero gets his dick cut off and eaten by a pig during a pogrom in the first, like, 10 pages and it gets worse from there; the decision to reread means weighing things like bembel rudzuk's whole deal and pilgermann's inner narrative and the very dark-comedy meeting with christ against things like just ...more
Denise Schlachtaub
May 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: spirituality
I almost quit reading this one because the narration kept moving back and forth between different states of reality, dreams, and other-worldly consciousness, which I found distracting and difficult to keep track of. In the end I was glad that I kept going, though, since there are several passages in the book that were beautifully written, and that offered profound insight.
Andrew Scott
Jul 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is one of the strangest of Hoban's novels (and that is no mean feat!) The story of Pilgermann's life (the latter part of it) and death is told by his enduring presence as waves and particles, with Pilgermann the Owl as an intermediate state of some sort... Set in the years 1096-1098, a time of great conflict in Europe and the near East between Christians and Muslims, Pilgermann who is a Jew, is in the midst of it all, suffering a personal tragedy, creating an artistic/spiritual masterpiece, ...more
Marius Gabriel
Apr 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In my opinion, Russell Hoban should have had the Nobel Prize for Literature on the basis of this book and "Riddley Walker" alone. The brilliance of Hoban's imagination and writing aside, it is the profound humanity in his books which stays with one, long after reading and re-reading.

Like "Riddley Walker," this is a novel about one man's experience in a world where violence, war and death are on all sides, and life is so fragile that every moment has to be lived to the full.

Like "Riddley Walker,"
Alex Fallis
Apr 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of my favourite books- stunning writing and crazy complexity.
Feb 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read several times, one of my fave books.
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Russell Conwell Hoban was an American expatriate writer. His works span many genres, including fantasy, science fiction, mainstream fiction, magical realism, poetry, and children's books. He lived in London, England, from 1969 until his death. (Wikipedia) ...more

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“I am only the waves and particles of such as I was but I have a covenant with the Lord, the terms of it are simple: everything is required of me, for ever.” 0 likes
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