I picked this book, because of the title and the author. I’ve been interested in Pullman ever since I saw The Golden Compass, but this is my first book by him. No doubt the first of several because I enjoy the genre he writes in so much!
In this retelling of Jesus‘s story, Pullman manages a neat twist in the form of twins Jesus & Christ! They function somewhat as alter egos, completing each other, together forming an intriguing whole. As a non-christian, who hasn’t read the bible (but knows the story), this made for an interesting read. I do have a copy of The Good News Bible though – a gift for Perfect Attendance way back in 5th Grade when I was studying in Stella Maris Convent, in Kobe, Japan! I’ve read it too, in bits and pieces and remember being fascinated by the word ‘concubine’ which features prominently in the Old Testament! I preferred the Old testament coz it read so much like a fairy-tale and I mean that with no disrespect whatsoever. But I digress!
Pullman presents a radically edited version of Jesus’s life – accurate but shorn of most of the melodrama. Jesus is presented as a pragmatic, reserved, reluctant prophet, not immune to sudden bursts of anger and not above ignoring his family for the greater good of doing God’s work. Christ on the other hand appears more worldly, although equally if not more retiring, a shadowy spy in his brother’s life, documenting his words and pondering their intent in private or with his mysterious visitor, possibly an Angel. Presenting two divergent points of view through the two brothers, Pullman advocates, through Jesus, an individual connection to ‘God’, independent of a middleman (read Church); whereas Christ believes in ‘The Kingdom of God’ as represented here on Earth by the Christian Church and its organization. He also uses the ‘Truth’ versus ‘History’ argument quite effectively to explain how stories are shaped, translated and shared through the ages, from an author’s perspective. Through Christ’s internal debate, we come to see how individual interpretations and beliefs play a decisive role in shaping the History we take for granted is true. Who was it that said, ‘The Truth has many versions.’?
I’m like Pullman in my personal belief; I believe an individual connection is the best, most direct and most fruitful way of communication with ‘God’ (or whatever else you chose to call a higher power). I find all organized religion and its self-appointed caretakers, intrusive and dogmatic, and I have no patience for the most part with rituals, or with worship based on fear and salvation based on degrees of goodness, judged by flawed human beings! I believe in an equal and good God who treats everyone the same and who asks nothing more than that we do the best we can and be the best ‘us’ we can be. Also I’m not too focused on the after-life. Pondering imaginary Heaven and Hell seems rather silly when there is ample proof that they both exist right here on Earth, often in our own backyards, and most definitely in our own selves. I think our time would be better spent putting what little we have to good use – helping the less fortunate in whatever ways we can.
This book is one in the Canongate Myth Series, a retelling of the world’s most enduring myths by some of the world’s finest contemporary writers. This is the first I’ve heard of such a series and on further research I’ve realized I’ll probably have to read several more from it – certainly Atwood’s version of the Odyssey written from his wife Penelope’s point of view, and McCall Smith’s Dream Angus! So this has been a most fruitful read in more ways than one! An easy read – I read it in a day, with large print – thank you Jesus for small mercies ;), this is a quick, interesting read that might make you rethink the way you think about the Gospel and open your mind to the differences between Truth and History – if you let it! And keep in mind, just like it says on the back cover of the book, This is a Story.
In the space of a few days, I’ve traveled from the decadent opulence of 1920’s America, back in time to the New Testament and now to Afghanistan under the Taliban! Don’t you just LOVE Books?!
Coming up next – The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri N. Murari – my second library book.
Happy Reading People 🙂