cover image The Life of God (as Told by Himself)

The Life of God (as Told by Himself)

Franco Ferrucci. University of Chicago Press, $22 (290pp) ISBN 978-0-226-24495-2

Published in Italy in 1986 and widely translated on the continent, this curious novel from Ferrucci (The Poetics of Disguise, 1980) presents the autobiography of the character about whom Jack Miles recently wrote God: A Biography. (This first English edition is more than a mere translation; in the process of preparing it, the author deleted some sections of the original and added new material.) Ferrucci's God is a far cry from the omniscient and wrathful Jehovah of the Old Testament; this is a deity who exhibits such human frailties as confusion and vulnerability as he struggles in his own search for truth and goodness amidst the chaos of the world he has haphazardly created. He visits Dante, Mozart, Freud and many other great minds, instigating much of their brilliant work and enjoying their spirited company. God also spends much time inhabiting the bodies of common folk, giving and receiving knowledge and partaking in the pleasures of the opposite sex (though flexible in many ways, Ferrucci's God is unquestionably male). Prone to wild dreams and depressive episodes, this God is distinctly un-Godlike--which seems to be the motif, or perhaps the punch line, of the entire novel. Though the narrative is amusing, and nicely energetic at times as it races through the millennia, its simple sentiments (creation is chaotic; God is himself a troubled soul; art and love are good; violence and hatred are bad) combined with an overabundance of cute touches (anxious about watering his plants, God floods entire regions) create a childlike tone that turns tedious. In the end, this novel is more an enjoyable exercise (write God's diary) or intellectual prank than a rich work of soaring imagination. (June)