Grossly provocative satire

2008-12-31 00:00

Why is that overly pious people often seem to suffer from a sense of humour failure that matches only their piety? I must admit that much of my limited enjoyment of this novel came from imagining the righteous indignation it will probably engender among the pious who will not “get it”.

By that I mean that this is a satirical send-up — sometimes outrageous — of the controversies that rage from time to time in Christian circles. The most recent surrounded Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion. Challenges like these to “orthodox” Christianity are about as old as the faith itself. For those interested in Greek mythology, the book carries allusions to Prometheus’s gift of fire.

Despite the humour, I found this a disappointing read and was left with the distinct feeling that it was dashed off in haste. Added to that, Faber seems intent on being as gross as possible, so you will understand why this is not a “Book of the Week” candidate.

The very gross antihero, Theo Griepenkerl, is an Aramaic scholar who finds nine papyrus scrolls hidden for 2 000 years inside a statue, and promptly steals them. After all, he argues, how can you call it theft when the Iraqi museum that housed the statue did not even know it owned the scrolls? Safely back in Canada he sets about translating them and dreaming of the wealth and fame his book will bring him.

Though it certainly brings him those things, it also brings consequences that didn’t feature even in his nightmares, including assassination threats and becoming embroiled with religious loonies. At least the loonies make the book inclusive and politically correct — an Arab and a Jew.

Consider this book if you need something short and modestly entertaining to read while lazing beside the pool this holiday. Otherwise, don’t bother.

Julia Denny-Dimitriou

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