Beginnings: Reflections on the Bible's Intriguing Firsts

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The bestselling and prize-winning Israeli author Meir Shalev describes the many "firsts" of the Bible – the first love and the first death, to the first laugh and the first dream – providing a fresh, secular and surprising look at the stories we think we know.
 
The first kiss in the Bible is not a kiss of love. The first love in the Bible is not the love of a man and a woman. The first hatred in the Bible is the hatred of a man toward his...
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Beginnings: Reflections on the Bible's Intriguing Firsts

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Overview

The bestselling and prize-winning Israeli author Meir Shalev describes the many "firsts" of the Bible – the first love and the first death, to the first laugh and the first dream – providing a fresh, secular and surprising look at the stories we think we know.
 
The first kiss in the Bible is not a kiss of love. The first love in the Bible is not the love of a man and a woman. The first hatred in the Bible is the hatred of a man toward his wife. The first laugh in the Bible is also the last. In Beginnings, Meir Shalev reintroduces us to the heroes and heroines of the Old Testament, exploring these and many more of the Bible’s unexpected "firsts." Combining penetrating wit, deep empathy, and impressive knowledge of the Bible, he probes each episode to uncover nuances and implications that a lesser writer would overlook, and his nontraditional, nonreligious interpretations of the famous stories of the Bible take them beyond platitudes and assumptions to the love, fear, tragedy, and inspiration at their heart. Literary, inquisitive, and honest, Shalev makes these stories come alive in all their complicated beauty, and though these stories are ancient, their resonance remains intensely contemporary.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this innovative and skillfully woven analysis of biblical firsts, Shalev (A Pigeon and a Boy), an Israeli columnist, probes the significance and underlying stories associated with 11 of the Bible's "firsts." He investigates the meaning of the first laugh, explains how the first Jewish monarchy arose, and explores the tragic story of the first loving woman, all from a firmly secular perspective. Shalev's vast biblical knowledge is evident, and he does not hesitate to offer his own take on a given subject, a perspective that often differs from traditional rabbinic understanding—a point he proudly makes throughout his work. His scrutiny of all aspects relating to a particular theme, his colorful descriptions of hallowed biblical figures, and his smooth pen enhance this biblical narrative, but some may find his frequent derision of traditional analysis distasteful and his sometimes casual writing distracting. Readers, either familiar or unacquainted with the biblical text, will enjoy this accessible and authentic excursion into the ancient world of Jewish life. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Celebrated Israeli novelist Shalev is not yet a household name in America, but his latest book may help change that. Here, he takes a fresh look at some of the most familiar stories in the Bible to uncover a series of firsts. When did the Hebrew word for love, laugh, hate, or dream first appear in the ancient text? Using a form of literary criticism, Shalev applies his knowledge of Hebrew to a close rereading of these ancient stories, which yields some surprising results. A master storyteller, Shalev unveils the power of these "first" words as symbols and analyzes their roles in the context of the story, revealing some unexpected twists and turns along the way. VERDICT This quick and enjoyable read is intended for a Jewish audience already familiar with the Bible, but anyone interested in biblical stories as literature will find Shalev's book both entertaining and enlightening. Recommended for a general audience, religious and nonreligious alike.—Brian Greene, Northeastern Univ. Lib., Boston
From the Publisher
Praise for Beginnings

"These essays bring a novelist's insight to the analysis of biblical characters." —Jewish Review of Books

"Shalev puts his fine storytelling skills to work." —Booklist

"Shalev is an author of great sophistication whose enthusiasm is contagious. He has an eye for detail, a thirst for making implied connections explicit and a wonderful habit of fully imagining the potent drama narrated." —The Forward

Praise for A Pigeon and a Boy
"Shalev creates a world that has the richness of invention and the obsessiveness of dreams." —The New York Times Book Review

"Brilliant... Universal in its scope and examination of human longing for a sense of roosting." —The Jerusalem Post

"An exquisite creation, a work of quiet language that needs no shouting to attain its impact." —Chicago Jewish Star

 
Praise for The Blue Mountain
"Passionate, ribald and tender . . . Shalev's colorful, feisty characters and vibrant prose animate this indelible depiction of the birth of a nation." —Publishers Weekly
 
"Evocative, even lyrical, with the underlying magic realism adding to the mythic stature of the villagers and their accomplishments." —Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307717184
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

MEIR SHALEV (b. 1948) is one of Israel's most celebrated writers. Author of six novels, most recently A Pigeon and a Boy, and five works of non-fiction, his writing has been translated into over 20 languages. A columnist for the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, Shalev lives in Jerusalem and in the north of Israel with his wife and children. He has received the Brenner Prize, Israel's highest literary honor, the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction, and numerous international honors.
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