Thursday, June 3, 2010

Judaism And Fantasy

Yesterday, I received a new journal in the mail, Jewish Review of Books. I haven't ordered it and it is the first issue, so I figure I must be on a mailing list, perhaps since I subscribe to First Things.

One of the articles is fascinating to me. It is titled, Why There is No Jewish Narnia, by Michael Weingrad. The first thing that impresses me about the article is how well the author knows some of the more obscure facts about Tolkien and Lewis. The second is the truly thoughtful and revealing reasons he gives for the lack of fantasy literature written by Jewish authors.

The reasons he gives are that:

1. Much fantasy is tied to the medieval feudal system which is not welcoming to Jews.
2. Jews are heavily invested in modernity.
3. Since the Holocaust, fantasy can make redemption seem too easy.
4. Judaism to a large degree has banished magical and mythological elements.  (Remember, Tolkien and Dyson had been instrumental in Lewis's conversion to Christianity by showing how Christianity was true myth.)

He says:
To put it crudely, if Christianity is a fantasy religion, then Judaism is a science fiction religion If the former is individualistic, magical, and salvationist, the latter is collective, technical, and this worldly.

Weingrad goes on to say that these differences are reflected in the much greater number of Jews who are science fiction writers. There are those who are breaking into the fantasy genre and he reviews two books whose authors who are doing just that. One is called The Magicians, by Leve Grossman, which is more satirical in nature and Ha-Mayim  she-bein  ha-olamot  (The Water Between the Worlds), by Hagar Yanai, a second in a trilogy aimed at adolescents.

I've linked to the article above.  Do make time to read it.  It is as revealing in its presentation of  the Christian faith and its way of seeing the world as it is the Jewish faith.

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