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The Source by James A. Michener
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The Source (1965)

by James A. Michener

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This is the book that started my life long interest in archaeology. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
Not my favorite of the Michener novels but one of the best in terms of the sheer amount of information conveyed. If you've ever read Michener, you don't need this review. If you haven't, you should. His novels are daunting but satisfying in that you can truly immerse yourself in another world. Because his research is so painstakingly thorough, and because he manages to pack much of it into the novel without boring the reader, hi work also allows you the privilege of learning while reading fiction. ( )
  turtlesleap | Mar 30, 2016 |
i seriously love the idea behind this. what a great way to explore a history - pick a spot in a land known to have been populated for tens of thousands of years, create a large hill there with resources to make it attractive for farming/living/fortressing, and in modern times bring over an archaeologist to discover the narrative of the land and the people who were there throughout history. fascinating.

michener takes us back about 12000 years and through examples of what life was like in 15 different time periods in this fictional spot in what is now northern israel. he speculates about the birth of religion (the entire book is even more a narrative of how religion developed throughout history) and how people lived in each of those time periods. i love reading about the development of human existence and how things were or could have been in ancient times.

it's interesting to me that when i last read this book, as a jew, i remember being proud of the way, in general, that he portrayed the jews and the jewish religion. reading it this time, as an atheist, i'm struck by how he often portrays religion as absurd and foolish, while sometimes giving it a credence i wasn't expecting. (for example he writes as fact that people heard the voice of god speaking to them, and takes the story from there.) just goes to show how much of ourselves we bring to the books we read, and how that affects where our focus lays while reading.

i particularly enjoyed the time periods of 9800 bce, 2200 bce,
and especially 960 bce. (this last is the only thing i really remembered from my last read.) the more recent periods (herod, the crusades) were also interesting and showed just how many people were massacred in the name of religion. i was also intrigued by the recent time period (1550 ce) where the kabbalah was "revealed." all of the historic periods he visits in this book are engaging, but these more than others, for me.

his current period, 1964, was less so for me. i understand that he had to use it as both the vantage point of history, the way to discuss the history and make sense of it, and as the place of a current religious debate in the new state of israel. but i wasn't as interested those discussions and i thought the way he handled the personal relationships in that time period was completely lacking. (i know it's more than 50 years later but i can't give him a pass for the way he wrote vered's relationship with eliav and cullinane, and the way they deigned to decide between themselves who vered would marry, as if she had no part in the decision or the marriage. drove me crazy throughout. ex: "You marry that girl ... or I'm taking her with me.") but the excavation was used well as a way to reorient between each time period and to elucidate points made or discovered in history. in spite of my feeling that these parts of the book weren't as well done as the rest, i really liked this. it's a slow read, but fascinating. i'm drawn to this book because i'm particularly interested in the land and its history, as i have an affinity for israel, but even more this book is about religion and how it's morphed and grown, contracted and changed, over history.

"...a leading German had confessed that his nation had 'treated the Jew rather badly.' He had fallen back upon this inoffensive term to cover the destruction of a people. Judaism would simply not permit its rabbis to come up with solutions like that. Judaism can be understood, it seems to me, only as if it's seen as a fundamental philosophy directed to the greatest of all problems; how can men live together in an organized society?'
'I would have thought,' Cullinane suggested, 'that the real religious problem is always 'How can man come to know God?'
'There's the difference between us,' Eliav said. 'There's the difference between the Old Testament and the New. The Christian discovers the spirit of God, and the reality is so blinding that you go right out, build a cathedral and kill a million people. The Jew avoids this intimacy and lives year after year in his ghetto, in a grubby little synagogue, working out the principles whereby men can live together.'"

the draw of the kabbalah: "There was an evil in the world which God was powerless to combat without the help of men: a mystical partnership was being offered, stunning in concept and its power to elicit the best in life. Like thousands of other Jews who in these years were piercing the mysteries of Zohar, Zaki discovered that he was not the kind of man to find spiritual solace through routine memorizing of Talmud or a sterile codification of law. He could find that mystical solace only through the Kabbala." ( )
  elisa.saphier | Mar 27, 2016 |
Sweeping narrative about the history of the Middle East, Palestine, Israel. Moves through from ancient times to the modern day. ( )
  bowlees | Feb 19, 2016 |
Not as good as the other Michener novel's I've read. ( )
  KathyGilbert | Jan 29, 2016 |
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On Tuesday the freighter steamed through the Straits of Gibraltar and for five days plowed eastward through the Mediterranean, past islands and peninsulas rich in history, so that on Saturday night the steward advised Dr. Cullinane, "If you wish an early sight of the Holy Land you must be up at dawn."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375760385, Paperback)

In his signature style of grand storytelling, James Michener sweeps us back through time to the Holy Land, thousands of years ago. By exploring the lives and discoveries of modern archaeologists excavating the site of Tell Makor, Michener vividly re-creates life in and around an ancient city during critical periods of its existence, and traces the profound history of the Jews, including that of the early Hebrews and their persecution, the impact of Christianity on the Jewish world, the Crusades, and the Spanish Inquisition. Michener weaves his epic tale of love, strength, and faith until at last he arrives at the founding of Israel and the modern conflict in the Middle East. The Source is not only a compelling history of the Holy Land and its people but a richly written saga that encompasses the development of Western civilization and the great religious and cultural ideas that have shaped our world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:19 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Exploring the lives and discoveries of modern archaeologists excavating the site of Tell Makor, Michener re-creates life in & around an ancient city during critical periods of its existence & traces the history of the Jews including the life of the early Hebrews, their persecution & the Spanish Inquisition.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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