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The Golem by Gustav Meyrink

The Golem (1915)

by Gustav Meyrink

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (21)  Spanish (6)  French (3)  German (2)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (34)
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First published in serial form as Der Golem in the periodical Die weissen Blätter in 1913–14, The Golem is a haunting Gothic tale of stolen identity and persecution, set in a strange underworld peopled by fantastical characters. The red-headed prostitute Rosina; the junk-dealer Aaron Wassertrum; puppeteers; street musicians; and a deaf-mute silhouette artist. Lurking in its inhabitants’ subconscious is the Golem, a creature of rabbinical myth. Supposedly a manifestation of all the suffering of the ghetto, it comes to life every 33 years in a room without a door. When the jeweller Athanasius Pernath, suffering from broken dreams and amnesia, sees the Golem, he realises to his terror that the ghostly man of clay shares his own face. . . . The Golem, though rarely seen, is central to the novel as a representative of the ghetto's own spirit and consciousness, brought to life by the suffering and misery that its inhabitants have endured over the centuries. Perhaps the most memorable figure in the story is the city of Prague itself, recognisable through its landmarks such as the Street of the Alchemists and the Castle.
  Cultural_Attache | Aug 4, 2018 |
4.5* ( )
  something_ | Aug 4, 2016 |
100 years since its first publication, Meyrink's The Golem is still hailed as "the first important expressionist novel" and "the most famous fictional treatment" of the golem, a Kabbalistic legend. After this, my first reading, I understand why. Meyrink's imagery and personification are insidious.

And some of the figures that streamed forth still from this invisible mouth were risen from the dead, their features swathed in graveclothes. Should they pause in my presence, they would let their wrappings suddenly fall, staring hungrily right into my heart with their predatory eyes that sent a stab of icy horror through my brain, and seemed to dam the swift course of my blood like a stream on which the skies have rained great chunks of stone, plumb to the very centre of its bed (p.12).

Often in my dreams would I witness the ghostly communings of these old houses, and in terror realise that they in very truth were the lords of the street, of its very life and essence...(p.16).

The golem itself is more of a background figure in this story. The fantastical, the true terror, revolves around Pernath's lost memories, not knowing who he really is, and the murders. The hints at madness (in Pernath or the narrator?), the pervasive feeling of loneliness coupled with the desperate need for connection and redemption, and the twisty plot of revenge are what really stood out for me. There are creepy bits but mostly I felt sad for everyone involved… until the end.

The Golem begs to be re-read (and perhaps read again for a third time) if, for no other reason, than to unlock another room within its one-windowed house of mysteries.

4 stars ( )
  flying_monkeys | Jan 15, 2016 |
An excellent and very readable book. I reminded me a bit of Dostoevsky in its self contemplation. A very good ending that brings the story together well. ( )
  MathMaverick | Nov 15, 2015 |
Suffering the initial onslaught from a nasty head cold I sat in front of the computer screen. It was nearly midnight and the rain was battering the skylight just above my head. The old timbers of my attic were creaking and groaning, the mice were scrabbling around on the roof trying to get in and I had wrapped myself up in an old blanket as the central heating had gone off hours ago. I had earlier downloaded Gustav Meyrink's The Golem and the image above shivered onto the screen. I was immediately plunged into Meyrink's story of old Prague and of Athanasius Pernath the gem cutter who dreams the dreams of a man looking for his soul:

At times I emerge with a start from the half-light of this reverie and see again for a moment the moonlight lying on the humped cover at the bottom of the bed like a large, bright, flat stone, only to grope my way blindly once more after my departing consciousness, restlessly searching for the stone which is tormenting me, the one which must lie hidden somewhere in the debris of my memory and which looks like a lump of fat.

I read on through the first couple of chapters empathising with the dream like/nightmare like quality of the words, my own head seemed to expand with the effort of concentration and I slipped in and out of consciousness as the words scrolled down the screen.

It was morning and I could make little sense of the few notes I had written last night or of the chunks of the book that I had copied, but it had been an experience to read the text in a slightly heightened feverish state.

I was suddenly visited by the notion that at some time I must have heard or read of a strange comparison between a stone and a lump of fat.

Yes I had read that last night and now Meyrink was telling me through Athanasius Pernath's own semi conscious state in the light of a new day in Prague that the stone and a lump of fat was significant. I decided not to re-read the first chapter because I was convinced I would find no answers there and so carried on with Pernath's own adventures in the Jewish quarter of Prague. Pernath gets involved in the plotting of the consumptive student; Charousek, who is carrying out a vendetta against his neighbour Wassertrum, who he believes is bent on instigating the suicide of the young doctor in revenge for his own sons death. There are stories within stories, the golem makes his appearance after a nightmarish journey through the underground passages of old Prague, Pernath has to make difficult life changing decisions as the the old town and it's inhabitants morph around him. Is he awake, is he dreaming even the passage of time seems to take on a twisted circular aspect. Meyrink uses the stories to give other characters points of view, but it is Pernaths own consciousness that concerns him most.

The voice, which is circling round in the darkness, searching for me to torment me with the stone or the lump of fat, has passed me by without seeing me. I know that it comes from the realm of sleep. But everything that I have just experienced was real life, and I sense that is why it could not see me, why its search for me was vain.

We follow Pernath's tormented path as he struggles to make sense of what is happening around him. Those torments include a spell in prison where he meets the strange Laponder a medium for psychic forces that Pernath believes holds vital clues for his past and his future. The story now seems to be rushing towards its conclusion and ends in a way that makes perfect sense to anyone who has been reading through a dazed fog of feverishness.

If there is one thing that I take away from this delicious tale of fantasy and horror is that if you accidentally pick up the wrong hat when leaving a party: whatever you do, don't put it on your head. Four stars. ( )
16 vote baswood | Jan 6, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (48 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Meyrink, GustavAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Irwin, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lourens, J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mainoldi, CarloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mitchell, MikeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pemberton, MadgeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sinclair, IainIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Steiner-Prag, HugoIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tieges, Wouter DonathTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Veer-Bertels, E.Th. van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Volli, UgoForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zimakov, VladimirIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Meiner Frau gewidmet
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Das Mondlicht fällt auf das Fußende meines Bettes und liegt dort wie ein großer, heller, flacher Stein.
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Book description
[Contratapa:] Redactada entre 1913 y 1914, en vísperas de que el mundo contemporáneo iniciara su larga serie de carnicerías, EL GOLEM (1915) es una de las novelas más singulares del género fantástico, pero también de todo el siglo XX. Inspirándose en una leyenda judía relacionada con la Cábala, según la cual resultaba posible insuflar vida a una figura de barro mediante una clave o ciertas palabras mágicas, GUSTAV MEYRINK (1868-1932) construyó un relato fascinante en el que la alucinada peripecia de Atanasius Pernath en el barrio judío de Praga transcurre envuelta en una atmósfera onírica y asfixiante. Las premoniciones y avisos que planean, ominosos, a lo largo del relato, la entrevista posibilidad del doble, el solapamiento de distintos planos y realidades, engendran finalmente una obra única y singular que bucea en los pliegues más recónditos y olvidados del inconsciente humano.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486250253, Paperback)

"A favorite of connoisseurs of works of fantasy for many decades." — St. Louis Post-Dispatch. A compelling story of mystical experiences, strange transformations, and profound terror, this is the most famous supernatural novel in modern European literature, set in Ghetto of Old Prague around 1890. 13 black-and-white illustrations. "Not to be missed." — Los Angeles Times.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:42 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Most famous supernatural novel in modern European literature, set in Ghetto of Old Prague around 1890. A compelling story of mystical experiences, strange transformations, profound terror. 13 black-and-white illus.Most famous supernatural novel in modern European literature, set in Ghetto of Old Prague around 1890. A compelling story of mystical experiences, strange transformations, profound terror. 13 illus.… (more)

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