Mr. Burstein, with translator Gabriel Levin, revisits this dark episode with an absurdist blending of ancient and contemporary details ... Ruination and farce go hand in hand—Judah’s king Jehoiakim dies by leaping into a giant bowl of hummus—in the kvetching style of Joseph Heller ... Mr. Burstein’s funny and unwieldy book dares you to disagree.
The realization of what Burstein...is up to doesn't dawn all at once ... As these details emerge, Burstein's ingenuity becomes ever more entertaining. The novel's depiction of the siege of Jerusalem, directed by a Babylonian general in a black Mercedes and featuring battering rams and helicopters, iron chariots and tanks, is yet another example of Burstein's deft technique. Muck is also a cautionary tale about the perpetual quality of Middle East conflict ... Though we might wish for a more generous treatment, Burstein's energetic novel, to its credit, remains true to the spirit of its source material until the bitter end.
The context of subjugated cultures provides incisive commentary about state power and control, repeatedly expressed in authoritarian name changing ... Gritty realism intermixes with historical allusion, allowing the work to function on various levels. The transmogrification of ancient events into a modern context creates a gripping world of hyperrealistic abandon; recommended for intrepid readers.
Burstein manages to wrest Pynchonian satire from biblical eschatology, and his narrative is frequently funny and sometimes opaque. The prevailing sentiment, as Jeremiah’s warnings go unheeded by his fellow light-rail commuters, is an all-too-familiar sense of anxiety about an uncertain future.
If the biblical text is the score of a Broadway musical, Burstein’s text is a modern jazz musician’s improvisatory interpretation that maintains the original chord structure ... Burstein’s prose likewise juxtaposes biblical Hebrew with contemporary Israeli Hebrew, and in Gabriel Levin’s excellent translation contemporary English is interspersed with scriptural style and usage ... readers will enjoy this funny, imaginative, and handsomely crafted novel ... Muck will whet its readers’ appetites for future translations of Burstein’s 11 other books of prose fiction, poetry, criticism, and children’s literature not yet available in English.
With its trippy overlapping of eras, settings, styles, and sensibilities, the book's dense narrative seems to unfold under a constant fog. Influenced by such masterworks as Philip Roth's scabrous Sabbath's Theater, Joseph Heller's satirical Catch-22, and the modernist works of Thomas Pynchon, the book is alternately hilarious (dig those talking dogs) and gripping in its treatment of the power of words. Ultimately, Burstein delivers page-turning suspense that gains resonance through its relevance to contemporary Israel. Israeli novelist Burstein's audacious reimagining of events leading to the siege of Jerusalem is a dazzling and dizzying triumph.
It’s hard not to read this as a parable for today’s Israel and the struggle over Palestine ... Burstein...may not be hopeful, but in this long, tangled, and occasionally obscure novel, he has found a way to speak, as prophets and novelists do, of present, past, and future, what was and what might be.