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Muck [Mud]

Dror Burstein

The hero of Burstein’s sixth novel is the prophet Jeremiah, a young poet who starts predicting a catastrophe. In the Jerusalem streets where he wanders, the citizens travel on the light-rail train and talk on cell phones, but the Temple is standing, King Jehoiakim lives in an ugly palace, and Jeremiah’s words demoralize the people. He warns that Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army is going to surround the corrupted city, destroy it and send its population into exile. But no one listens, even when Babylonian helicopters and tanks are on the city outskirts. Jehoiakim then commits suicide and his crown passes to his son Jehoiachin, a talented pianist who is tricked into giving up his musical career in Vienna and flying back home. But his reign is short and his uncle, Zedekiah, takes power. Zedekiah is a successful poet who sports  tattoos and whose poems appear in prestigious journals. He is also a childhood friend of Jeremiah’s. But now that he is king, Zedekiah sees Jeremiah as a traitor and orders him to be thrown into a pit of muck. Fortunately, a pack of dogs, headed by a talking dog, saves the tormented prophet from drowning.

Muck is a complex, brilliant and daring novel. Partly an attempt to rewrite the story of Jeremiah in modern dress, it may also be a chilling prophesy for contemporary Jerusalem. It invites the reader to re-assess the relevance of the biblical text today and to view the cyclical nature of history.





REVIEWS

Burstein has succeeded. Perhaps because it is not the history that interests him but rather the prophet and the king … The last chapters of Muck are truly hair-raising, and they can be read over and over without losing their power.

Motyi Fogel, Haaretz


A novel that provides an artistic entirety that is rounded, wise, amusing, profound and courageous… Burstein weaves the biblical reality masterfully, reinventing it as a fantastical geo-apocalyptical  admixture …  The novel’s measured equilibrium and the sense of humor embedded therein emerge as one reads … The story fluctuates with virtuosity between fantasy and reality ... Thanks to this surprising novel, Dror Burstein retains his status as one of the interesting and important writers in Israel today.

Ori Cohen, Israel Hayom

 

Muck is simply amazing – the idea itself is wonderful, and the execution is no less than that. I enjoyed each moment, the humor, the seriousness of the subject, and also the linguistic subtleties. In short: a memorable literary achievement.
Prof. James Kugel, author of How to Read the Bible

 

I finished Muck with bated breath, and it is one of the most important and finest books I have had the privilege of reading in recent years. From now on, my reading of the Book of Jeremiah will be totally different. The mad transitions from then to now and back again dizzy the reader; the subtlest of subtle humor and the use of the Bible and its homiletic interpretations add an element of depth to the book, which is also a warning signal to our generation.
Prof. Avigdor Shinan

I enjoyed Dror Burstein’s Muck, which is a riveting book.

Prof. Shimon Sandbank, Makor Rishon

 

Muck by Dror Burstein is a work of brilliance, but more importantly and less commonly, it is a brilliant work which renews its brilliance on every page ... Muck is a creative, occasionally genius, admixture of the situation in Judah at the time of the destruction of the First Temple and the technological and cultural reality of contemporary Jerusalem … The geo-political imbroglio in which the kings of Judah found themselves is clearly elucidated, as are passages from the prophesies of Jeremiah. These passages are marvelously assimilated into the plot that is poignant, but also satirical in a manner that speaks the contemporary reader … An excellent novel.

Tsur Ehrlich, Makor Rishon


Dror Burstein’s magnificent book sweeps one along with laughter and overwhelms one with a collective sorrow, and cheers one with admiration for his literary capabilities. The greatness of this book must be pronounced out loud, because there is no other such book that has to be read here and now … A superb work … A model of unity of form and content … Every sentence in this work is overflowing with the wisdom of the ages, with excellent, up-to-date humor … Muck should be read here and now, but also from now on, because of its elaborate, spectacular structure, the outcome of a craft of writing that evokes wonderment … Burstein has woven all of the ages of the nation into one clamorous carpet … The book stands as a great work of art even without any interpretation, but the connotations are buried within it like layers that invite discovery. 

Talma Admon, Maariv


Burstein’s new novel is the most effective among the rising wave of literature of anxiety, reproach and political criticism over the last decade. It is focused and alert, also surprising and attractive…It succeeds in making a concrete story out of the link between religious thought and a position of opposition to power… It could appeal to a wide audience. 

Yoni Livneh, Yedioth Ahronoth

 

Burstein’s books always [refer us to] complex theological and mystical texts, and raise original, thought-provoking questions. This is true of his latest novel too.

Ynet

An arousing book, gripping and original, a unique, quite incredible combination of the comic and the tragic, of the historical and the contemporary …An engrossing human and narrative mixture that Burstein plays with like a jugglers’ balls … Burstein has blended the eras, as if in a giant concrete mixer, as if he has made a fold in history, and the result is comical, grotesque … When I began reading, I split my sides laughing. But as you get used to the story, you also get used to his supra-temporal concept, and what remains is admiration for the author’s creativity … His erudition is only one aspect of the stunning historical fantasy Burstein has constructed. I am full of wonder at a human brain that invents such fantasies and I warmly recommend this book.

Amia Lieblich, HebPsy.net


Aside from the fact that Muck is a superb book, which is fun to read and which drew frequent bursts of laughter from me, it has another virtue in that it places the Bible back into the public conversation … Choosing to rewrite the Book of Jeremiah is an act of courage.

Udi Neumann, Megafon

 

This is an impressive achievement for Burstein, and  for the genre of the biblical novel in general.

Israel Hayom

 

One of the finest, most intricate and most daring novels written in the Hebrew language.

Zichronim


Title Muck [Mud]
Author’s Last Name Burstein
Author's First Name Dror
Language(s) Hebrew, English
Genre novel
Publisher (Hebrew) Keter
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 2016
No. Pages 331 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Tit
Representation Represented by ITHL

Translations

English: New York, Farrar Straus, forthcoming
 
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