The Horn: A Novel

One Bay One Book: Dara Horn’s time-tripping novel kicks off a year of reading
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Dara Horn has kept notebooks since she was a girl. She wanted records of her accomplishments and challenges, she says, from the monumental to the mundane: a personal history she could pore through whenever she felt like it. For young people right now, this is going to be their entire lives. What effect is 21st-century technology having on how, and what, we remember? Is it changing the stories we tell each other — and ourselves — about our pasts? It was with these questions in mind that Horn, who holds degrees in Yiddish and Hebrew, and has taught courses in Jewish literature and Israeli history at Harvard and Sarah Lawrence College, approached her fourth novel.

J. Kathleen Cheney

A project of the Jewish Community Library, the program involves eight months of readings, book discussions and other interactive events at schools, JCCs, synagogues and libraries throughout the Bay Area — meaning people will be reading and talking about it through next spring. Josie Ashkenazi, the modern-day protagonist, is a brilliant software developer who has been locked in a tempestuous, volatile relationship with her jealous older sister, Judith, since childhood. Ironically, what entered her mind were words about one of the Jewish matriarchs, which led her to write a book about motherhood.

Main character Rachel is a Jewish widow in her early 80s who resides in contemporary America. At the start of her exceptionally long life, Rachel was the daughter of a Jewish scribe in the Holy City during the Tannaitic period, in the years just prior to the destruction of the Second Temple. Her husband supported the Zealots in their rebellion against the Romans, while her brilliant son, Yohanan ben Zakkai a historical figure from the Mishna , was among the pacifists.

Holy Temple as it appears in model of Jerusalem in Second Temple period at the Israel Museum Freud via Wikimedia Commons Through a series of events, Rachel becomes destined to live over and over as a Jewish woman and mother throughout the course of Jewish history until this day. In all her works, Horn draws upon Jewish history, folklore and texts to grapple with perennial questions of philosophy, spirituality and morality.

The Times of Israel recently interviewed Horn on writing a book about Jerusalem, trying to stop time, and what sets her novel apart from others about eternal life.

All your novels have elements of Jewish historical fiction. Was it different to write about the ancient era for the first time? Every public prayer service corresponds to a Temple service. For my other books, I wrote about periods I knew well from my academic work of through my research. As a Torah reader, there were many years that I did the Yom Kippur Shacharit [morning service] Torah reading that goes through all the rituals of the High Priest.

It makes you feel like you were there. Was this more challenging? It was not only challenging from a technical standpoint. Accessed 13 March Ac- cessed 2 Aug They are well-educated opinion-makers on the contemporary American cultural scene with a command of both American and Jewish history, of English as well as of ebrew and Yiddish and their Jews-are-cool empowerment is reflected in their stories. Their works are frequently filled with scenes and stories alluding to Jewish mysticism and Yiddish fables often bound to history, as the Jewish past is complicatedly tied to the present.

Many of the stories of the New Yiddishists jump back and forth between generations of Jewish families, showing how the questions that we struggle with today are the same ones that Jews have dealt with before: How do we stay true to our herit- age while living in a multicultural society? Are we Jews, Americans, or both? What is our place in this world? As men- tioned earlier, one of the main characters of the story is Bill Lands- mann, an elderly Jewish refugee in a New Jersey suburb.

Blessing or curse? A matriarch grapples with immortality in new Dara Horn novel

He has one great passion in life: building a slide collection of contemporary lives and scenes that he encounters during his many travels around the world and that to him mirror and reflect biblical images and tales. At the opening of the book, Bill crosses paths with Leora, the best friend of his granddaughter who tragically died in a car acci- dent as the girls were in high school.

Leora is the other main char- acter of this novel that follows her life forward through college, career and falling in love while simultaneously following Bill s life backward, through several generations, to Amsterdam, Austria and 30 Pinsker, Jewish-American Fiction. As the narrative develops, unex- pected links between his family s past and her family's future are revealed. According to Horn, she wants to show that people are not shaped by their experiences, which they neither choose nor control, but by the way they react to these experiences, which is something they can choose and control.

Horn says she was captivated by the way early modern Hebrew and Yiddish writers referred to biblical language and rabbinical themes, even while writing seemingly secular stories or when criti- cizing the Jewish tradition. Thus, orn strived to create a novel that could be read at many levels: as a historical fam- ily saga, as a modern New York love story or as a religious Jewish 32To give a few examples: One of the main characters of the novel, Leora's boyfriend Jake, is an academic scholar specialized in the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza, and discusses his notions at several points in the novel.

An important story that is weaved into the novel as a reoccurring theme tied to the biographies of many of the novel characters, thus giving rise to deep analyses of the nature of Jewish identity and observance, is a story of how Jewish immigrants, when arriving by boat and entering New York harbor, threw their phylacteries overboard as signs of the old world they were leaving behind. At several occasions, the characters listen to ser- mons or reflect independently on passages from different Jewish scriptures, imple- menting them in their own contexts and times.

In doing so, Horn aimed at introducing a new style for American Jewish literature, one that would be more closely tied to the ancient Jewish narrative tradition. As the title of orn s novel reveals, the ethical and theological question of what it might mean for human beings to be created in the image of God, although it is not mentioned directly in the book of Job, is one of the most central and mesmerizing themes of the book. Before introducing examples of how the question is dealt with by Horn in her fictive writing, a theoretical framework for the analysis needs to be introduced.

Imago Dei As discussed previously in this paper, the theme of human beings as created in God s image has been extensively analyzed and debated among theologians and philosophers throughout history. Among the multifarious contributions to this debate, one can identify a number of major analytical trajectories that have been widely fol- lowed when elaborating on this biblical idea. Different commenta- tors have indeed assumed very different understandings of what an image is and how it is related to its source. To create a comprehen- sive understanding of the motif, however, one must allow the hu- man image to have both material and immaterial traits — to be tan- gible, embodied and visible but simultaneously referring to the transcendent and invisible.

Her clear elaboration of the topic is helpful in structuring the complex interpretative field under study and will therefore be used to structure the current analysis. Welz s first type of interpretation is the functional model em- phasizing representation. This model conceives of God s image as the prototype […] to which the human being is to correspond, as a copy to the original. This idea can be discerned in the Vulgate where the translation of Gen —27 was made under the influ- ence of Plato s philosophy.

Still it begs many questions: Are human beings living manifestations of God on earth, or is God rather repre- sented by human beings on earth? Is there an identity between humans and God, or rather a mere similarity — a likeness?

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Accord- ing to Welz, the original Hebrew text is enigmatic at this point, con- taining an unsolvable ambiguity between similarity and dissimilari- ty, immanent and transcendent. Thus, human existence is not independent of God but lived in relation to him. As the Bible offers only a few short statements estab- lishing the fact that human beings are created by God in his image the verses noted above: Gen —27; —2; , theology has seen a wide range of speculations on the question of how humans resemble God and what this resemblance amounts to.

This interpretation presupposes a Christological reading of the original text, however: claiming that the original resemblance has been lost through human sin and now needs to be repaired and that Christ is the only complete image of God. Hence, as for example Bonhoeffer has argued, the likeness can be seen as an analogy of the relation between humans and God, characterized by both freedom and responsibility. One cannot lose what one does not possess, Welz notes, in relation to the problem of the lost im- age. In this model, the image is not understood as a status, something that the human being possesses, but rather as something that comes to her from the outside.

Reading my way through the Pulitzer Prize (Fiction) winners

The key to understanding the theme, in this model, is thus the event of being addressed. Dalton contends in his analysis of Levinas, it is the possibility of considering oneself as created which begins to stir within the heart of the subject through the ethical encounter with the Other. My first task in every encounter is to comprehend the personhood of the human being I face, to sense the kinship of being human, solidarity of being.

To quote Welz: before human beings can say any- thing, God has already addressed them and called them to live a life of dialogue with him and with each other. Rothschild ed. This model is presented in some Greek translations of Gen —27 in the early Church which were made under the influence of Plato s philosophy, asserting that the funda- mental aspect of being an image of God is the striving to minimize the distance to the original as much as possible by means of ethical striving.

Becoming the image of God is nevertheless not the result of human striving or education but is accomplished through grace alone: only by becoming completely still and giving up one s own activity can one become the image. Indeed, most researchers tend to use models that include several of the above-mentioned categories and the diversity within each category is also significant. Welz is therefore interested in developing the analysis of imago Dei towards greater nuance by applying perspectives from modern semiotics and Bildwissenschaft.

As the focus of this study was on dialogue, it was natu- ral that the idea of human beings as created by God in his image was mostly addressed within a dialogical context, paralleling the third level of Welz s typology. Within the tradition of dialogue philosophy, the view of all hu- man beings as created in the image of God is linked to a vision of what, adapting the terminology of philosopher Raimond Gaita, can be denoted common humanity.

The idea of a common humanity springs from the insight that we are all human beings living in a world in- habited by other human beings and that dialogue can serve to un- cover our ultimate commonalities as human beings while still honouring the dignity of difference. As mentioned above, within the Abrahamic traditions, this per- spective is rooted in the belief that God created the world as a home for all people and human beings in his image.

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Keeping with my goal to read each Pulitzer Prize winning novel written prior to which isn't so monumental a task considering the first was awarded in , I finished reading "Honey in the Horn" and I'm glad I did. I particularly liked the opening passage: "He met her in the lane and laid her on a board, And he played her a tune called Sugar in the Gourd, Sugar in the Gourd, Honey in the Horn; Balance to your partners, honey in the horn. I grew up in a passionately Jewish family, and as an artist I am drawn to Jewish culture because I feel this is a tradition designed to solve this kind of problem. None of those problems apply to this project as I'm a solo operator and the book has already been completed. Definitely an interesting read, the second half is stronger than the first.

The other, who dominates me, is the stranger, the widow, the orphan, and am obligated to answer to this call. Encountering strangers always means encountering particular strangers; a person is not just a specimen of the human species but all of humanity in one.

The recognition of common humanity was identified as one of the most fundamental features in my study of artists engaged in interreligious dialogue. From a dialogue philosophical point of view, the ability to respond to the other as fully another perspective on the world presupposes the idea that all such perspectives find a place on the richly varied palette of human existential options. The notion of common humanity was given a religious connotation by some of the artists, but not by all of them.

Furthermore, some of them linked it to the Abrahamic framework of human beings as God s intrinsically good creation; others referred to the idea on a more unspecified, spiritual level.

Honey in the Horn | OSU Press

Thus, for those artists who found the idea of God creating human beings in his image a relevant reli- gious narrative, this representation was strongly seen to imply the event of being addressed and responding by turning towards other human beings in open, respectful relationships. An Entire World Lived and Breathed in the Image The same two questions, that is, human dignity and relationality, pertaining to human beings as the images of God appear as the most important ones also in Dara orn s novel, although in a rather different manner.

While her focus in the novel is not directed to- 66 eschel, No Religion s an sland,.

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The novel also deals at length with the interpersonal relation- ships between the different characters and their ways of finding a way to recognize the image of God in faces so different from their own.