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Tuesday, July 11, 2017
The Jewish Narnia
It has been seven years since Michael Weingrad challenged the Red Sea Pedestrians to do high-fantasy or epic-fantasy; to give to the Jews an epic of their own like Lewis and Tolkien wrote two for the High-Church British.
Three years ago, I opined that Lev Grossman was posing his Fillory as the Narnia As Seen By Jews. At the time I misstated this as such an attempt at "The Jewish Narnia". Since the Magicians Season Two is out on DVD / blueray today, I did a little rethinking and researching on that. Yeah, those concepts are entirely different.
Someone who set himself to write The Jewish Narnia would have to proselytise or at least explain and defend Judaism. As for Grossman himself, it turns out he is not actually Jewish. He is mixed Jewish and Anglican, and was raised secular. For a year or two his parents sent him to Hebrew school, I guess so he could make up his own mind. (A familiar theme in this blog...) The same holds for Neil Gaiman.
Grossman like Gaiman cannot write a Jewish Narnia himself. This stuck him with rebuilding a shade of the old Narnia, for dislocated Anglophone foreigners to stumble through. This is the only story Grossman is currently able to tell. I actually enjoy his story, and I appreciate it for what it is - which is more than I'll say of Gaiman. But Grossman can offer no comfort to the Jewish soul. Nor, really, for seculars'.
Since all that, actual Jews have gotten busy answering Weingrad's challenge. In 2015 Barnes and Noble pointed us to five recent Jewish fantasy epics. Of these, several look like Jewish ripostes to the Christian mediaeval tradition, which just gets us back to Grossman's nihilism. But Matthew Kressel's The King of Shards might actually be the real thing.
UPDATE 7/26: No. Oh G-d no, it is not.
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