Simone Zelitch, Author . Black Heron $23.95 (268p) ISBN 978-0-930773-59-5

In this dark follow-up to her critically acclaimed novel Louisa, Zelitch returns to her first publishing house to offer a literary impression of the biblical hero Moses, painting his life as one continuous horror. In an opening scene, the baby Moses is abandoned for dead by his father, Amram, then disfigured and left with a stutter when his adoptive mother, the mad Egyptian princess Bityah, persuades him to suck on a live coal. After murdering an overseer as a young man, Moses wanders in despair amid poisonous snakes in Sinai until he returns to lead the Hebrew slaves to an unhappy freedom. There are more ghastly events to come; as Zelitch wryly observes, "Moses was doomed to live for a long time." The insane Bityah has a significant role, treating Moses as a pet and "my good baby" even as he approaches manhood. Later, her mad love for Moses and her bereavement after his desertion turns her brother/husband Merneptah's affection for Moses to hatred. Moses' family is harshly treated by Zelitch: his sister Miriam is "queen of the witches," while his brother Aaron serves in the temple of Seth, where he becomes the voice of the "god" and has homosexual relations with his mentor Nube. Zelitch excels in crafting atmosphere and descriptions, but even dedicated readers who are familiar with the biblical account will have difficulty following the story because of the multiple points of view and obscure symbols. (Dec. 19)

Reviewed on: 11/05/2001
Release date: 01/01/2010
Genre: Fiction
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