As his story unfolds, it seems that Pilgermann comes to no significant clarity in his life, but is regularly filled with amazing insights and depth of knowledge. This is a book that asks very serious questions, and forces the reader to provide answers. Pilgermann has very little in common with Hoban's Riddley Walker, a book that I have treasured since my youth. The English here is clear, but the story much more complex. Hoban has once again provided a very serious and signficant gem, but on a completely different plane of existence.
Nearly as good as Riddley Walker From Amazon Hoban's adult work which consists are far too few books is among some of the most brilliant literature I have read, and Riddley Walker and Pilgermann are my favorites. Perhaps less comprehensible then RW, Pilgermann is a narrative of the perpetual quest for that which is unattainable and this is far too simplistic an explanation for an author who clearly burns through Jung for pleasure reading.
The story beings centuries after the main character has died but continues to exist in one form or another and recounts his attempts at making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I am leaving out far too much because the story is filled with a dark and unexplainable nature that sometimes comes out as terribly violent, cruel, or simply boggling.
The narrator of course is sidetracked in his quest, sold into slavery he is made a eunich too incidentally , but at last comes to a certain acceptance of the moment, despite his own wish to continue along on his journey. The story becomes caught up in the construction of 'hidden lion', a massive tile design which becomes a sacred object to the community. From here, Hoban analyses one of his most haunting themes--that of the sacred entering into the common place, it's dilution, and finally it's inevitable desicration.
It would be a spoiler to say that much more of the plot itself, but in style the books reads very much as some apocryphal Christian work. There is much citing from the Quran and the book includes a 'reference' page of biblical and other religious references. Ultimately though, Pilergmann is the strangest religiously grounded work I have ever read, making Gnostic works which freaked out Philip K.
There are three great religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And there are three great gods: Yahweh, Holy Trinity and Allah. They all are preaching peace but crying for blood… View all 8 comments. 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 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.
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 reading them. Even then I feel certain that I'll inevitably fall short, as more confidently plunging into the depths forged by Hoban will only reveal further depths that were previously undetected. It doesn't give up its riches easily, but that only makes each nugget of wisdom dug up, each "connexion" made, feel all the more rewarding. This is ostensibly an historical novel, and it has elements of being a fantasy novel, but what it is, ultimately, is a meditation on life, death, God, man, infinity, and beyond.
I mention it in the same breath as Thomas Mann's Joseph and His Brothers because in my mind they are of a piece; beautiful, philosophical,meditative works informed by Judeo-Christian arcana and mythology, revolving around the idea of time as a wheel, history as a circle that keeps repeating itself. They're both stunning; Pilgermann just has the advantage of being about 1, pages shorter. But read 'em both. View all 7 comments. 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 of God.
View all 10 comments. Oct 27, Sarah marked it as unfinished Shelves: 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 Well played, my friend. Well played, indeed. View all 3 comments. Nov 03, Patrick rated it it was ok. 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 plot, if it can be said to exist, follows a jew named Pilgermann who is thrown to an anti-semitic mob after an illicit tryst with the wife of a rich merchant. He is castrated and enters a state of wandering semi-death, and finds himself a pilgrim on the road to Jerusalem.
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The result is a combination between a serious meditation of religion, time and history, and a kind of picaresque road novel which approximates Henry Fielding via Brueghel. But after the thing has happened--whatever that thing might be--that brings recognition, then one knows irrevocably how very fragile is the world, how very, very fragile; it is like one of those ideas that one has in dreams: so clear and so self-explaining are they that we make no special effort to remember.
Then of course they vanish as we wake and there is nothing there but the awareness that something very clear has altogether vanished. Jun 18, Ian Johnston 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 This is my favourite novel. He was a Jew, who after sleeping with a married woman is ambushed by Christians and castrated. In his agony he sees Jesus, which distresses him because he is Jewish. From there he embarks on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, gathering an entourage of ghosts following him around, until he ends up in Antioch when it comes under siege during a crusade. Religious themes permeate the novel, with much discussion of the relationship between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
Absolutely recommended. Sep 29, Gronk rated it it was amazing. 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. Pilgermann is the iconoclastic story of a German Jew at the time of the first crusade in 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 Pilgermann is the iconoclastic story of a German Jew at the time of the first crusade in 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 death itself called Bruder Pfortner Brother Gateway , who lustfully sodomizes everyone in his path.
Hoban was still primarily a children's writer at the time he wrote Pilgermann , but as you may have guessed by the previous paragraph, this novel is decidedly not for children. Suffused with graphic, violent imagery, heavy on metaphysical concepts and quotes from holy scriptures, it's a wild journey both to and within eternity itself.
Inspired by gazing at the stars between the Virgin and the Lion over the hills of Galilee, Hoban must have been thinking of a way to reconcile the three religions that share and fight over the Holy Land with a single idea of what eternity will be, which Pilgermann finds in a pattern: "There is a point where pattern becomes motion; the pattern has found me and I must move, must be aware of moving, must be a motion, an action of the Word".
I have read this three times now, the first two times in my early twenties.
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