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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Messiah of Stockholm

Cynthia Ozick

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To purchase The Messiah of Stockholm

Title: The Messiah of Stockholm
Author: Cynthia Ozick
Genre: Novel
Written: 1987
Length: 144 pages
Availability: The Messiah of Stockholm - US
The Messiah of Stockholm - UK
The Messiah of Stockholm - Canada
Le Messie de Stockholm - France
Der Messias von Stockholm - Deutschland

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Our Assessment:

B+ : clever and well-written, but not completely satisfying

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
London Rev. of Books . 4/2/1998 John Lanchester
The NY Times A- 28/2/1987 Michiko Kakutani
The NY Times Book Rev. A+ 22/3/1987 Harold Bloom

    From the Reviews:
  • "The Messiah, Cynthia Ozick's novel suggests, although a tragic loss to literature, is not a meaningless one. (...) For all the verbal liveliness of The Messiah of Stockholm, the novel gives a curious impression of constraint, by comparison with Ozick's best work: the title story of her volume, Levitation, for instance." - John Lanchester, London Review of Books

  • "What distinguishes The Messiah of Stockholm and lofts it above your run-of-the-mill philosophical novel is the author's distinctive and utterly original voice." - Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

  • "Lars is the most persuasive and poignant figure in a fiction by Ms. Ozick, surpassing even Edelshtein, the untranslated poet in her early masterwork, Envy; or, Yiddish in America." - Harold Bloom, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Messiah of Stockholm, perhaps Ozick's most popular novel, certainly highly acclaimed, is a clever, very literary story set in Stockholm. Ultra New Yorker shtetl gal Ozick ventures far afield, at least geographically, with this work. Nevertheless, she manages to populate the novel with Jews (refugees, many sporting assumed Scandinavian names) and fashions a tale about yet another aspect of the diaspora.
       The guiding light of the novel, in more respects than one, is Polish writer Bruno Schulz, the third (and least, both in output and quality) of the great Polish literary triumvirate that was made up of him, Gombrowicz, and Witkiewicz. Schulz was killed during World War II, leaving behind only a few works (which were first introduced to a larger American public in Philip Roth's Writer's from the Other Europe series -- and it is to Roth that Ozick dedicates the book (previously she had by and large kept the dedications in the family)).
       The main character of Ozick's novel is Lars Andemening, forty-something and not much of a success in life. Twice married, he is a very minor figure in the literary world, a book reviewer for one of Sweden's lesser dailies. Lars, a war refugee raised by a Swedish couple, is convinced that his father was Bruno Schulz. Schulz allegedly wrote a novel, The Messiah, before his death, but the manuscript is lost. One of Lars' acquaintances is a bookstore owner, Heid Eklund, and she one day brings the news that someone has approached her with the original manuscript of The Messiah.
       The owner of the manuscript claims also to be Schulz' child. Lars gets his hands on the manuscript and commits an unspeakable act. Mysteries abound -- is the manuscript a forgery ? Who is the mysterious woman bearing it, and why does she look so much like the bookstore owner ? And so on.
       A book about identity and literature, about obsession and the mundane, about how to find one's place in life and how one might live that live, Ozick's book makes for an entertaining and often thoughtful read. Some of the puzzles seemed a bit too forced to us, and we did not like Lars' anti-messianic act: though it is Ozick's prerogative to do as she sees fit, it still seems too easy an out to us. Straightforwardly told, very well-written, it is an approachable and enjoyable short novel. We recommend it, though not without some reservation.

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The Messiah of Stockholm: Reviews: Bruno Schulz: Cynthia Ozick: Other books by Cynthia Ozick under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary American fiction

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About the Author:

       American author Cynthia Ozick is the author of numerous works of fiction, as well as several collections of essays. She has been awarded a number of prizes and honors, and she has received a Guggenheim Fellowship.

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