Professor Harold Fisch breaks new ground in his present work by exploring the relation between the novel and the biblical writings as a continuing dialogue. The landmark novels of the West turn out, again and again, to be re-readings of biblical stories. This echoing is sometimes explicit as in Joseph Andrews, where Fielding offers us a comic revision of the career of the biblical Joseph. But it can be inexplicit and even unconscious as in Kafka's The Trial, which, without mentioning Job, reads (as Northop Frye has noted) like a midrashic commentary on that book.In a study remarkable both for its range and depth, Harold Fisch develops the notion of the novel as midrash but argues that whilst the great novelists were held in thrall by the biblical patterns and stories, they were also regularly compelled to throw off this thraldom. They could not manage without the Bible but at the same time `it would not do'. Theirs was an adversarial relation to the biblical text. Fisch discusses this dialectic with reference to two archetypal narratives: the Job story and the Binding of Isaac. Of particular interest are the chapters devoted to the Israeli novelists SY Agnon and AB Yehoshua. Whilst, as might be expected, they are drawn with special force to the Biblical word, their resistance to its fascination is in some ways greater than that of writers in the West.

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