This is Kaniuk’s last book, completed not long before he died in 2013. Angels had always interested him, as had devils, and he worked on the book for ten years. Angels
is an associative, ironic essay that includes philosophical reflections, incidental details drawn from the Scriptures, and references to literature and art as well as to personal experiences. Kaniuk talks about angels that appear in Jewish and Christian sources and dwells on the discrepancy between the positive image of the angel and the destructive divine missions carried out by many of those in the Hebrew Bible. Although the angels are all sexless males, Kaniuk describes angelic women he has known whose qualities are far greater—for example, his life companion, a woman filled with beauty and compassion, and totally devoid of egocentricity or malice.
Kaniuk also admits his failure to create an angel in his artwork. In 1948, he was on the crew of a ship bringing Jewish refugees from Europe to Israel. When it docked in Naples, he met an emaciated, hungry young prostitute named Angelina. Her name and appearance contradicted her occupation, and when Kaniuk, living in New York, painted Icarus, he tried to give him Angelina’s face. It didn’t work and the painting remained unfinished, but his obsession with solving the mystery of angels remained with him from then on.
Fascinating and touching…It is out of a sense of exaltation, awe and nonexistence that Kaniuk wrote Angels, an essay possessed, which contains many moments of raw beauty and love – love for writing without hope, love for the muses that have slipped away.
Interesting. Writing this essay has paradoxically elicited from Kaniuk [a style that is] more relaxed, pacified, committed...Angels is well written because it was Kaniuk who wrote it.