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.
Burstein is one of the most experimental and exciting Israeli novelist writing today
New York Tomes Book Review
Those who lament that the novel has lost its prophecy should pay heed and cover-price: Muck is the future, both of Jerusalem and of literature. God is showing some rare good taste, by choosing to speak to us through Dror Burstein. Joshua Cohen, author of Moving Kings and Book of Numbers
Influenced by such masterworks as Philip Roth's scabrous Sabbath's Theater, Joseph Heller's satirical Catch-22, and the modernist works of Thomas Pynchon, [Muck] is alternately hilarious (dig those talking dogs) and gripping in its treatment of the power of words. Ultimately, Burstein delivers page-turning suspense that gains resonance through its relevance to contemporary Israel . . . a dazzling and dizzying triumph.
Kirkus (starred review)
The transmogrification on ancient events into a modern context creates a gripping world of hyperrealistic abandon.
a wildly imaginative retelling of the biblical book of Jeremiah…. a clever mashup of events in the ancient kingdom of Judah and contemporary Israel.
The New Statesman
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
Ori Cohen, Israel
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
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
Yoni Livneh, Yedioth
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.
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.
One of the finest, most intricate and
most daring novels written in the Hebrew language.