cover image The Miracle Hater

The Miracle Hater

Shulamith Hareven. North Point Press, $8.95 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-86547-329-4

This small jewel by a prominent Israeli writer is an inspired revision of the biblical Exodus, the Hebrews' worship of the Golden Calf and their brutal, seemingly endless, 40-year desert sojourn. The canny novella vivifies the rebel Hebrew slaves as impoverished refugees living at the mercy of the Egyptian populace, the immensity of their freedom when they flee Egypt and the generation born in the desert who, ""like doorless and windowless houses,'' retain no memory of slavery. In Hareven's tale, the ``miracle man'' Moses is a remote leader, ``who could not stand being touched,'' and the focus is on Eshkhar, an outcast even among the desert wanderers. Frustrated by the misery of his thirsty, sickly people, he roams beyond the camp and discovers ``that the desert was inhabited, that it had limits, that it could be crossed from end to end in a matter of weeks. The deception of miracles was keeping them purblind and lost.'' Halkin's careful translation illuminates the ways in which the author's spare, lyric prose, embroidered with archaisms, complementsand amplifiesthe language of the bible. Hareven is the author of The City of Many Days. (April)