The Man Who Thought He Was Messiah

Curt Leviant, Author
Curt Leviant, Author Jewish Publication Society of America $7.6 (222p) ISBN 978-0-8276-0371-4
Reviewed on: 12/01/1990
Release date: 12/01/1990
Although Rabbi Nachman died in the early 1800s, the Bratslaver Hasidim have never seen fit to replace him as their leader. Unique in this respect in the annals of Hasidism, they are thus known as the ``Dead Hasidim.'' In Leviant's ( Passion in the Desert ) hypnotic fable, Nachman is fictionally resurrected. Great-grandson of the sainted Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism, Nachman hears God's whisper; he is the Messiah. Erotically charged, however, he falls passionately in love with a young girl (the description of their affair displays some of Leviant's most felicitous prose). When Nachman tells his love that she is more beautiful than the Hebrew alphabet, he loses the ability to read. Wracked by guilt, convinced that he has sunk to the depths of moral degradation, he embarks on several journeys in an effort to regain his soul and sense of mission. He visits Beethoven in Vienna, the sultan of Byzantium, and sundry personages in Eretz Israel, performing good deeds--and even miracles--as he goes. An evanescent quality invades Nachman's life and eventually he fades completely, his destiny unfulfilled. Or is it? So much of Nachman's life is suffused with mysticism that fantasy seems an apt vehicle for truth. Spare, clean and poetic, Leviant's version of his story is brilliantly wrought. (Oct.)
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