In a modern-dress retelling of the Biblical book of Jeremiah, two young poets in Jerusalem are about to have their lives turned upside down in a story that dramatizes the eternal dispute between poetry and power, between faith and practicality, and between haves and have-nots.
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.