Unambo, by Max Brod
The first fifty pages of Unambo almost defeat the good will which is inspired by the name of Max Brod. The effort-ridden writing gives the impression that this critic, scholar, musician, poet-famous once in Czechoslovakia, and now in Israel-has set himself an impossible task in applying a medieval devil-fantasy to the contemporary scene and its problems. Then at page 57 he uses the fable of the tyrant Phalaris and his steer of bronze: “Into the belly of this steer rebels against his despotism were thrown and then within the steer a great fire was lit under them. The victims screamed. But a subtle artist had inserted into the steer’s belly so many carefully placed convolutions that the desperate screams of tortured human beings were transmuted into musical harmonies.” From this point onwards Brod becomes master of his material. Though the machinery is still cumbersome, his intellect, his wide-ranging knowledge, and his power of unsullied enthusiasm (which makes him at the age of sixty-eight still so young a man) take command, and the reader is carried forward along the double road of the story.
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