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In the ghetto of Prague, artists, students and pawnbrokers eke out a living among the gloomy tenements and mildewed courtyards. Lurking in its inhabitants’ subconscious is the Golem, a creature of rabbinical myth. Supposedly a manifestation of all the suffering of the ghetto, it comes to life every 33 years in a room without a door. When the jeweller Athanasius Pernath, suffering from broken dreams and amnesia, sees the Golem, he realises to his terror that the ghostly man of clay shares his own face …
First published in 1913-4, The Golem is a haunting Gothic tale of stolen identity and persecution, set in a strange underworld peopled by fantastical characters. The red-headed prostitute Rosina, the junk-dealer Aaron Wassertrum, puppeteers, street musicians and a deafmute silhouette artist: in the words of critic Robert Irwin, all are ‘driven through the dark and narrow streets of Prague like playing cards before the wind’. Perhaps the most memorable figure in the story is the city of Prague itself. The city is recognisable through its landmarks such as the Street of the Alchemists and the Castle but in the end, as introducer Iain Sinclair puts it, Meyrink shows Prague to be ‘a city of phantoms capable of transforming itself into anywhere’.
Gustav Meyrink published several books but was dogged by scandal, imprisonment and financial ruin, before experiencing huge success with The Golem. In his introduction, author Iain Sinclair explains the Golem’s roots in Jewish folklore, and its extensive influence: from Expressionist painting to German cinema. Chilling and atmospheric woodcuts by Vladimir Zimakov evoke the novel’s eerie horrors and what Sinclair calls its ‘special-effects extravaganza’.
‘Crime did stalk these streets, day and night, like a disembodied spirit in search of a physical form … It is in the air, but we do not see it. Suddenly, it precipitates in a human soul.’
Review by Raikoh_911 on 12th Jun 2012
"I had never heard of this book when I saw it on here, but as a fan of gothic fiction I decided to take a risk and buy it. This was a very good thing. This book is a great piece of classic gothic ficti..." [read more]