The Book of Esther

Emily Barton published a third fiction book about the Khazars that got a very nice review in the New York Times.

Barton has talent to spare, and while her pacing and tone are occasionally ponderous, her imagination makes the story as addicting as a Jewish “Game of Thrones.” The novel’s invented world is considerably more persuasive than the characters populating it, but this hardly gets in the way of the adventure. More distinctively, Barton explores religious culture with remarkable warmth. For those familiar with Judaism, one of the book’s unexpected pleasures is just how unexotic these ­exotic Khazars turn out to be. (I’ve attended many Sabbath dinners like Esther’s, with fewer golems.) Yet a load-bearing premise like this one, predicated not merely on the Holocaust but on the real-life absence of golems to stop it, demands more than entertainment. The original golem legend was a fantasy in the deepest psychological sense, a story invented by people with no actual way to defend themselves. Which returns us to the question: Why this story now?

I haven’t read it myself, but the book reminded the critique of “Altneuland.”

Great to see how the Khazars are making their way to the mainstream.


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