The Golem (Gustav Meyrink)

Well THAT was difficult. Not sure if it was the book, or my headspace of late, or just the fact that I’ve been doing other things, but I’ll be damned if I can understand why it took me so long to read this not overly-long book. It’s not that I didn’t like it or was bored, cos I did and I wasn’t… just something about it, perhaps, that’s not conducive to reading too much of it in one hit. I don’t know. The book’s Wikipedia entry notes that this is considered Meyrink’s most accessible novel, which makes me worry a bit about what the rest are like by comparison… it’s not like Meyrink goes out of his way to make it terribly easy or clear for the reader or anything; our narrator, Athanasius Pernath, is a man whose mental state is left open to conjecture, as indeed is his identity, not even he seems entirely sure that he is who he appears to be. The setting is the Prague ghetto circa 1890, where Pernath works as a jeweller; in Meyrink’s novel, the titular Golem is an entity whose precise nature is kind of obscure, a sort of manifestation of the darker sides of the Jewish ghetto and its inhabitants that appears every 33 years. And with the supernatural business, there’s enough trouble in the “real” world too, murder, adultery, etc… The overall haziness of Pernath’s experiences leaves it somewhat open to debate just how much of what happens in the book is real, and the book only complicates things further by suggesting it was a dream, but whose dream was it, or if it wasn’t a dream then what was it… Yeah, not the easiest read, though a worthwhile one, certainly. I suspect it’s one I’ll get more out of on a re-reading, though, especially if I can focus on it better…

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