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May 28, 1965 - Image 13

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1965-05-28

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

James A. Michener's 'The Source': Great
Novel Depicts Major Historicat Aspects

.•





I

James A. Michener has stirred
up a hornet's nest with his new
. Random-published novel, "The
Source."
Theologians are sure to differ
on much he has written. Historians
will be shocked by his approach.
Novelists will wonder whether a
new era has commenced and
whether story-telling will be linked
henceforth with analysis of his-
torical findings, lectures on a va-
riety of subjects, condemnation of
prejudice, psychiatric tests, re-
search into the past, etc., etc.
The marvel is that Michener does
it all in one, and that his new
novel moralizes, lectures, studies,
researches, excavates, entertains,
tells love stores, exposes frauds,
etc., etc., etc.
Because it does all of that,
there is certain to be endless de-
bate by reviewers, rabbis and
ministers, historians and others
over "The Source." Even archae-
ologists—and the novel is pri-
marily about excavations at
Makor (the mythic al place
which means "The Source")—
may not agree with Michener.
Regardless of the skill of the
debaters, the fact remains that in
a brief period of a single year,
during which Michener lived in
Israel and prepared this text, he
has gathered for inclusion in his
novel' the basic biblical facts, the
history of religions and the back-
ground to monotheism, Jewish
historical data that makes his
novel a veritable chronicle of
world events.
And his story is, indeed, not only
.a good narrative about modern
people and their interests and
loves; but also a birdseye view of
events that transpired in the past
and those that are occurring even
now.
And because of his skill at gath-
ering data, he has fused the past
with the present and has linked

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them by developing the religious
themes as well as the Hellenistic-
Jewish conflicts, the anti-Semitic
episodes in history, the holocausts
and the Jewish will to live.
In the course of his research
and study in Israel, preparatory
to writing "The Source," Mich-
ener had acquired a thorough
knowledge of Talmudic and bibli-
cal teachings and has incor-
porated them in his story. In
one chapter, in which he de-
scribes the cruelties of Antiochus
Epiphanes, he inserts some of
the most impressive gems from
Proverbs and other Jewish lore.
The Irishman, from Chicago,
Cullinane, the hero of this story
who falls in love with the Jewess
Vered, the pottery expert, mast-
ers lore and folklore. He becomes
the guiding spirit in an effort that
stems from his own selection of
the site for excavations—the an-
cient site of Makor, where he de-
velops the religious backgrounds
of mankind, describes the battles
for existence, the Jewish will to
live, the allegiance YHWH. And
even as he deals with the tet-
ragrammaton he enters into a
discussion that is certain to fasci-
nate the reader — and to lead to
further study. Thus, in relation
to one of the characters in his
novel, he makes this comment
on the YHWH usage:
". . . He was not allowed to
speak the name YHWH; indeed,
he did not know how the sacred
name was pronounced, for it had
been some centuries since the
word had been spoken in Makor.
But since any deity must be re-
ferred to in some manner, the cus-
tom had grown up of calling
YHWH by the arbitrary Hebrew
word Adonai, which later would
be translated into other languages
as Lord. When the vowel indica-
tions for Adonai were added to the
letters YHWH, a curious symbol
developed which German scholars
many centuries later would mis-
takenly read as Jehovah, a word
that had_ never existed and that
had never in any way been ap-
plied to the austere Hebrew
diety. . . ."
Michener resorts to Scripture.
Much of his story is fiction but
there is enough fact, there is suf-
ficient use of the biblical that is
intertwined in the adventures and
dramatic episodes depicted to
make his novel significantly in-
triguing.
Especially valuable are his
accounts of the current condi-
tions, of the battles for freedom,
of the Sinai campaign, indeed,
of the Zionist idea. But about
that, a bit later, since his novel,
as indicated in the account of
the book's reference to Deuter-
onomy in the first evaluation in
these columns, calls for more
than a single review.
Michener, introducing his chief
hero in his novel, Cullinane, touch-
es on the subject of anti-Semitism,
of the prejudices that had been
implanted in young minds, of the
crucifixion accusation and of the
frequent cry young children, had
heard hurled at them:
"Jew boy! Jew boy!
Gonna crucify a goy."
And here the fair-minded non-
Jew's attitude is expressed when
Michener says, referring to Culli-
nane:
"It was not until Cullinane
reached college that he dis-
covered that it had not been the
Jews who had done these things
to Jesus; it had been Roman
soldiers. He also discovered
that no Catholic dignitary who
had advanced beyond the stage
of parish priest any longer pro-
claimed such view, but by then
it did not matter. On his own
recognizance he had discovered
that an instinctive hatred of the
Jew made no sense, and that a
rational dislike could be sup-

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, May 28, 1965-13

ported by no evidence whatever.
And he had changed so complete-
ly that now he could even con-
template marrying a Jew."
Thus, the story goes on, cover-
ing the vast area of human rela-
tions, the social aspects in the
Jewish story, the chronicling of
Hebraic and Israeli histories.
It will be recalled that long be-
fore he had written this novel,
Michener wrote about the injus-
tices that were practiced by
Christianity against Judaism. In
1964 he stated:
"I am moved to shame when I
think how Christianity through-
out the centuries held on to a
belief that made the Jews a
scapegoat . . . I look at some
of the great names in American
literature — Ernest Heming-
way, Thomas Wolfe and Theo-
dore Dreiser — all of whom fell
into the terrible trap of anti-
Semitism; they all wrote in an
anti-Semitic spirit . . ."
Thus wrote James A. Michener,
the former Harvard University
professor whose novel, "The
Source," may well be viewed as
one of the very great literary
works of our time. Its greatness
is indicated in what this reviewer
has stated so far. More, deserv-
edly, later.
—P.S.

Harold Berry Heads Arrangements
for Hillel Dinner Honoring Abe Kasle;
Rabbi Stuart Rosenberg to Be Speaker

Harold Berry has been named
general chairman of the Hillel Day
School seventh annual Founders
Day dinner, it was announced by
Max Goldsmith, school president.
The dinner, to be held June 23,
at Adas Shalom, will be addressed
by Dr. Stuart Rosenberg, rabbi
of Beth Tzedec Congregation, To-
ronto.
According to Berry, the program
will center around a community
tribute to Abe Kasle, a former
president of the United Hebrew
Schools, on the occasion of his 70th
birthday.
Honorary chairmen of the Foun-
ders Day dinner will be Philip A.
Hart, United States Senator; Dr.
Clarence B. Hilberry, retiring
president of Wayne State Univer-
sity and Mayor Jerome Cavanagh.
Honorary co-chairmen are Abra-
ham Borman, Tom Borman, Harry
Cohen and Mrs. Emma Schaver.
Hillel Day School, which began
in 1958 with 29 students, now has
classes ranging from kindergarten
through the seventh grade of jun--
ior high school with a student en-
rollment in excess of 200 boys and
girls participating in its combined
curriculum of Hebraic and gener-
al studies.
The general studies parallel the
program of the public school, ful-
filling the standards required by
the Detroit and Oak Park Boards
Hear sixty advisers, but be of Education and the State of
guided by your own conviction.
Michigan.
the Talmud
Serving with Berry as co-chair-

men are Rabbi Jacob E. Segal and
Saul Waldman. Associate chairmen
include Mesdames William Burke
and Samuel Danto, Howard Dan-
zig, Max Goldsmith, Philmore Lee-
mon, Milton Marwil, A. I. Morri-
son, Albert Posen, Sherman Sha-
piro and Nathan Shur.
Invitations to the dinner are be-
ing issued to. all friends and sup-
porters of Hillel Day School. Those
attending the dinner will have
their names inscribed in a dedica-
tory volume to be presented to
Kasle that evening.
For information and reserva-
tions, call the Hillel Day School
office, LI 8-8224, or Max Gold-
smith, UN 3-4532.

Institute Draws Scientists

REHOVOTH — Ninety-three out
of 124 foreign scientists now visit-
ing Israel are at the Weizmann In-
stitute of Science.
This was revealed by a survey
issued recently by the Israel Na-
tional Council for Research and
Development, which is attached to
the prime minister's office in Jeru-
salem.

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