o n l y h u m a n
published 2000 by Jenny Diski
There have been numerous accounts of the life of Jesus, some more accepted as gospel than others. From authors like Jose Saramago to directors like Mel Gibson, the Son of Man has remained a fascinating subject up to our days.
There is less written about the women of the bible. I would be interested to read, for instance, a fictionalised account of the life of Mary the Magdalene, or even Mary, Mother of God. What did they think, feel, and believe about what was happening around (and sometimes inside) them?
Only Human is one new take at telling the life of biblical persons, but also deals with the biblical events that we hear of in Genesis, themselves. Who is this I AM person, anyway? Why did he create a rule he knew would be broken, a free will he knew would be misused, a humanity he would have to destroy?
The narrator of this novel enters the head of Sarai, Abram's barren wife, and reveals that God has a little bit less omniscience and omnipotence than he thought. She becomes the stolid doubter to the visions of Abram, the wife he has left for his God.
The novel fleshes out the life of the family of Abram, before they set out for their promised land in the desert. It gives life to Terah, his idol worshipping father, Haran, his brother, Lot, his nephew, and later to Hagar, his concubine. Yet, although much of the action takes place inside the head of Sarai, it does not (in my view) fully explore her personality. Instead, the person it best manages to give life, is God. Which I suspect was the purpose of writing this book. Which makes it highly blasphemous, but also (for people like me), thought-provoking and entertaining. Only human is about creation and dismay, about faith and disbelief, and also about what it is to be only human.
The only human blood spilled in Only Human is that of menstruation. So if you wish to escape the violence of The Passion of The Christ, I recommend it.
Yes, I hated Sarai. She chose the world, when, like Abram, she might have chosen me out of her need. . . .
She was the only thing that stood in the way of my complete possession of my beloved Abram.
She was the way of the world.
God, after Sarai has told Abram to make Hagar with child
But the man and woman survived, chose to survive. Thrived, even, in the difficult desert. They took what they had been given and made a life for themselves. So the world went its own way, the way of good and evil, the way of everything that is and can be, andthe god continued to punish and outlaw, as each of his attributes was taken from him by the resourcefulness of the creature he created. Humanity went about its business, taking what it had been given - self-consciousness and fertility - and doing the best and worst with them.
Sarai's version of the whole being thrown out of Eden bit
The story's mine, not hers, never was.
The interruption is the narrative, the interruptor is the narrator.
As if her story could be the story.
I am the interruption and the narrative.
I am the Word and the maker of time.
I am the commencement and conclusion.
God, deciding how the story should end