The Jewish Messiah
Xavier Radek, the Swiss protagonist of this farcical coming-of-age novel, believes it is his calling to help the Jewish people. The descendant of an SS member, Xavier decides to convert to Judaism and soon befriends Awromele, the handsome son of a local rabbi, whose great ambition is to translate Mein Kampf into Yiddish. Awromele puts Xavier in touch with an elderly mohel who agrees to circumcise Xavier, and after the operation goes haywire, Xavier’s life takes a bizarre and grotesque turn. The two boys remain close friends through a host of additional struggles, most notably Xavier’s father’s suicide and Awromele’s struggles to assimilate, and eventually become lovers and move to Amsterdam. Ahost of zany and bittersweet adventures ensue, and as adults they wind up moving to Israel, where Xavier, in keeping with his lifelong aspirations of easing Jewish suffering, becomes prime minister. While the novel plays with historical and political allegory, it refrains from easy symbolism or didacticism. Instead, Grunberg’s fictional universe is beguilingly surreal and wholly alive. The novel ends with a memorable tragicomic flourish as Xavier and his messianic complex are finally put to the ultimate test.
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