Only Human: A Divine Comedy

Overview

First came Adam, whose fall soured his quest for absolute authrity, then Noah, whose dreary sense of duty he found dull. god resolves for a thrid and final time to get it right, to select a vessel through whom to direct human affairs, and to whom to communicate directly. He chooses a solitary figure whose faith, once secured, will surely reflect even greater glory and love. Were matters only that simple. In Only Human, Jenny Diski's brilliant and affecting retelling of the Abraham and Sarah story, God learns that...
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Only Human: A Divine Comedy

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Overview

First came Adam, whose fall soured his quest for absolute authrity, then Noah, whose dreary sense of duty he found dull. god resolves for a thrid and final time to get it right, to select a vessel through whom to direct human affairs, and to whom to communicate directly. He chooses a solitary figure whose faith, once secured, will surely reflect even greater glory and love. Were matters only that simple. In Only Human, Jenny Diski's brilliant and affecting retelling of the Abraham and Sarah story, God learns that no man, Chosen or not, is solitary, and that bonds forged by the human heart are resilient even to divine commandment. Diski transforms an archetypal tale of Old Testament obedience into a fierce and funny love triangle, a battle of wills over not only mankind's future, but over who will tell the story of its past.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this inventive retelling of the Abraham and Sarah story, Diski (Skating to Antarctica) offers up a vain, "testy" God, who has created humanity in the hope of gaining insight into Himself. Instead, He feels shut out by his creations which is a pity, since they might benefit from his attention. Abram and Sarai, half-siblings married by their dynasty-conscious father, have trouble playing the roles they are allotted. The whole family is prone to fruitless soul-searching and spend their time grappling with the idea of death, occasionally sacrificing a lamb or defacing an idol to pass the time. The tale is mostly buildup, set during the period before the all-important birth of Isaac, and indeed is primarily meditation: Sarai thinks about love, Abram worries about the continuation of his lineage and God, who narrates half the book, broods on the disobedient inventiveness of His creations. When major events do occur (fueled by dialogue direct from the Bible), they progress at breakneck speed, as though the characters were in a hurry to return to their dreary contemplation of the human state. While billed as a "divine comedy," the novel lacks the raised eyebrow that makes other approaches to biblical stories Kierkegaard's, for example so successful. There are humorous moments, as when God grouses about humans taking "my exhortation to be fruitful and multiply to their hearts. Rather, to their loins." And the novel gives Sarai much more airtime than the Bible does, offering a refreshing, feminine perspective. As God and Sarai battle for Abram's affection, readers will inevitably take her side; the affectionate though fallible human is, unsurprisingly, much more appealing than the distant, irritable deity. (May) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The always intriguing Diski (Skating to Antarctica, 1998, etc.) retells the Old Testament of Sarah and Abraham, creating both a moving love story and a postmodern exploration of the idea of narration. Child of an unnamed concubine and Abraham's father, Sarah is raised in the respectable house of Shem as a beloved sister. The family consists of prosperous craftsmen, fashioning idols of the various gods worshipped in the city of Ur. Even as a child Sarah loves Abraham, trailing after him in the pesky, devoted custom of a younger sibling. Then, when she's 13, tragedy strikes: Abraham's brother desecrates a temple and commits suicide, forcing his shunned family to move through the desert in search of a place that hasn't heard of their shame. While in the desert the father makes a daring decision: Sarah and Abraham must marry to continue the family line. They have a long, happy union but no children. It is then that God speaks to Abraham, promising the impossible: children through which a nation will be born. Throughout Sarah's story, the voice of God interrupts—although, as He points out, He is The Word, so there is no narrative that is not His own. These forays into divine elevate a simple revisionist tale to a truly bold exploration of the character of God. The great I AM from which everything comes, God tells of his first mistake, the unforeseen invention of an "us" (Adam and Eve): it's a mistake that sets Him forever apart from His creation. An "us" doesn't need an I AM, and the human invention of love, something He never imagined, further alienates master from man and woman. God tries to start over with Noah, but it doesn't really work, so He then sets His sightson stolid, dutiful Abraham's love. But there's a powerful obstacle: the love already existing between a very human "us"—Sarah and Abraham. Original and thought-provoking.
From the Publisher

“Fascinating...[Diski’s] God attains a tormented specificity. Alternately arrogant and sorrowful, all-knowing yet astonished at the vagaries of creation, His voice is the true center of [Diski’s] book.” —The Village Voice

“Inventive, compelling....Diski has found a wonderful device for explicating the baffling and powerful stories of Abram, and the realization of Sarai as an empowered woman adds depth and texture to one of the oldest stories in the book.” —Booklist

“Original and thought-provoking...The always intriguing Diski retells the Old Testament Sarah and Abraham, creating both a moving love story and a postmodern exploration of the idea of narration.” —Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312305178
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 11/1/2002
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Jenny Diski is the author of Skating To Antarctica, The Dream Mistress, and Stranger on a Train from Picador. She lives in Cambridge, England.

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