Marek Hal­ter; Howard Cur­tis, trans.
  • Review
By – August 10, 2012

In these two vol­umes of his tril­o­gy, Marek Hal­ter involves pas­sion” and bib­li­cal-era reli­gion as he com­bines imag­ined his­to­ry, arche­o­log­i­cal find­ings, and the pro­tag­o­nists. They evoke the fem­i­nism of The Red Tent by Ani­ta Dia­mant, writ­ten near­ly ten years ago. Hal­ter por­trays Sarah as a mod­ern woman, mak­ing choic­es in her life. He empha­sizes the pas­sion and fer­vor of Abra­ham, and more per­ti­nent­ly, the pas­sion between him and Sarah — Her heart was ham­mer­ing against her ribs, and her hands were shak­ing” when they met. Abra­ham, com­mand­ing and fiery, is a won­der­ful hero. Sarah’s youth­ful impetu­ous­ness, which deter­mines much of her life, evolves into mys­ti­cal wis­dom. The inten­si­ty of ancient per­cep­tions of G‑d are jux­ta­posed with women’s roles through­out. Inter­est­ing­ly, both Sarah and Zip­po­rah mar­ried out­side their tribe. 

Descrip­tions of dai­ly life add val­ue. As for the prose, the translator’s choic­es star­tle: a young per­son is in a tetchy” mood, or a mot­ley crew” moves along a path. In what time frame do Halter’s read­ers live? 

The sec­ond vol­ume is a biog­ra­phy of Zip­po­rah, who was raised in Mid­i­an. Hal­ter uses the idea that she was in fact a Cushite (Nubian/​Sudanese), and sup­pos­es that she was adopt­ed as a small girl by Jethro, the sage and prince. Fate brings two foundlings — Moses and Zip­po­rah — into one tent, and ulti­mate­ly into mar­riage. While Sarah qui­et­ly encour­ages Abra­ham, Zip­po­rah is an active ally of Moses, firm­ly telling him his duty toward Pharaoh’s Hebrew slaves. Both females make choic­es. Accord­ing to Hal­ter, Sarah’s infer­til­i­ty is her choice; Zip­po­rah chose not to mar­ry Moses until some time after their first son was born. Miri­am, Moses’ sis­ter, is antag­o­nis­tic to Zip­po­rah, a black per­son. Zip­po­rah wit­ness­es the death of their small sons in the tur­moil among the res­cued Hebrews pri­or to Moses’ final descent from the moun­tain. The book’s final lev­el of ten­sion and rapid pace are stirring. 

Addi­tion­al Titles Fea­tured in Review

Arlene B. Soifer earned degrees in Eng­lish, and has had many years of expe­ri­ence as a free­lance writer, edi­tor, and pub­lic rela­tions professional.

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