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The Grand Circus of Ideas

Two aging women are found dead in a surrealistic old-age home in Jerusalem. One, a resident, is wearing a tattered elephant costume; next to her, an unknown woman is dressed up as a doll, in a frock with golden buttons and patent leather shoes. Although the cause of death is clear—asphyxiation from a gas heater—no one can explain why they look like they have just run away from a circus. Thus begins a gripping mystery, the story of four residents who met in the home fifteen years earlier and established a choir, which inspired them and gave their lives new meaning. As the enterprise progresses, with songs ranging from Israeli classics to weird and charming rap, we hear their tragic yet miraculous life stories, full of twists, turns and magical realism which takes us back to the madness and radicalism of the 20th century. One woman was sent to the gas chambers as a child, but was saved by her elephant costume and a flock of crows that lifted her into the air and carried her away from the inferno. Another resident is a lapsed monk who has strange visions. An amazing novel, in which the taken-for-granted becomes miraculous, and the surreal—flying elephants, chairs sprouting from a cherry tree—seems plausible. All together form colorful links suggesting the continuity of human memory based on great ideologies that either propel humanity forward or shatter it.

Title The Grand Circus of Ideas
Writer's Last Name Ben-Cnaan
Writer's First Name Miki
Genre Fiction
Publisher (Hebrew) Achuzat Bayit
No. Pages 422pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Ha-Kirkas Ha-Gadol Shel Ha-Raʹayonot
  • “ A book like this should be greeted with cheers... Ben-Cnaan stretches the imagination in an awe-inspiring way.”

  • “ Gripping. A superb, intriguing story... There is something hypnotic in Ben-Caan's writing.”

  • “ Imagination, daring, and a great deal of originality.”