This is quite a fascinating little book. This review is going to be rather involved since I was writing it while I was reading the book. There will be non stop spoilers but for those who want to know what is going on it should be good for them. So now I will begin with what my notes have in them…..
It is hard to explain how this book has made me feel so far. I am only 50 pages in and I have been in a state of torpor.
Constantly falling asleep while reading the book, dreaming the sequences or maybe not.
You can feel the lustfulness of Rosina, the underlying hatred in the Ghetto, the dreaminess of all the encounters with the author’s self.
When we get to the chapter “Punch” we finally get to know the history of the Golem. How every 33 years he appears. You can feel the mysticism that lies behind everything described from the description of the wind blowing the papers around to the number 33.
You also have the story of Rosina which this is the third incarnation it seems, each being exactly alike in the face and how they affect men around them. This to me is an important chapter not only for the history but also for Pernath. To find out while in a trance like state while the others talk about him that he was in an insane asylum and he also become aware of his connection with the Golem.
This semi trance like state carries over into the next chapter “Night”. Here they have taken the party to a salon which is loaded with guests. The eeriness has continued to build from possible screams from the sewers to the entrance of the singer and harp player in the salon. The symbolism of the flame and silence is telling, to me it continues to play on the awakening of the sympathy Pernath has with the Golem.
The party at the salon becomes changed after the singing of the old Jew and his woman. It becomes debauched, with an almost naked Rosina dancing with a Dragoon and then the Prince is dancing with an effeminate man. We also have a story told beforehand about “the Regiment”, a group of ruffians, beggars and whores protected by a man of great learning.
At the peak of this debauchery Pernath collapses.
“Awaken” opens with them carrying his body corpse-like to Shemaiah Hillel’s apartment. Along the way although his body is rigid his mind is free. It is like he is in a trance and when Shemaiah enters and starts talking to him his words bombard him in a most spiritual fashion. If you have ever meditated and gotten into that trance-like state you will know what I mean when the smallest sounds will impact upon whole being like bombs going off.
Hillel gives advise of a sort to Pernath and then sends him up to his own room. The experience has heightened his awareness to the Nth degree. Everything has become possible to understand for him. Though when he attempts to seek his origins in his mind he can only go so far. Then he sleeps.
In “Snow” he awakens the next day to find himself in a great peace. This changes when he receives a letter from a woman who seeks his help. A woman from his past he cannot remember. As he goes to the Cathedral to meet her the world is covered in a fresh snow. To me it symbolizes a peace and perhaps a new beginning.
When he meets her he finds he knows her, and what she says of his last words to her causes a memory to come back, painful as it was. She asks him to act as an intermediary for her which he accepts, and they part after her hysteria has passed about the situation.
The really odd thing is what happens on the way home as he passes a puppeteer who says some lines which describe his memory that was awakened in their conversation at the Cathedral. It does make me wonder if it is his unconscious mind that is saying the words he hears the puppeteer say.
“Ghost” opens with Pernath in his apartment debating with himself in the darkness. Soon he hears rustling in the apartment next door and goes to investigate. Here he finds Charousek going through things. Fortunately he is an ally in his quest against Wassertrum for the lady from the past, Angelina.
Charousek is looking for any evidence that Wassertrum could use but only Angelina’s letters concerning her affair with Savioli are found which were then taken and given to Pernath to lock away in his iron box. At this point the part ways, but later Pernath goes back after realizing he noticed the outline of a trapdoor in the floor and seeks to explore where it leads.
In absolute darkness he follows his way down and up through these dank passageways until he arrives at what appears to be another trap door in the shape of a Jewish Star. He enters through it and begins examining the room. Only a window barred up with no entrances. This is where it gets very strange. Many of the objects he sees he vaguely recognizes. He experiences memories of a schoolroom, and also comes to the realization that this is the Golem’s room.
Realizing he can’t find his way out he thinks to wait for the daylight to possibly help in his escape. All of a sudden he begins to get ice cold down to the bones and the only thing he can find to help warm him up is an ancient covering in the corner. Now it gets trippy. As he sits in the corner of the room in the opposite corner he comes face to face with the Golem as it materializes with his own face. Here he spends the rest of the night grappling mentally with it in a contest of mastery.
When the light of day comes he fades and Pernath is able to make his way out. Along the way home he is chased by a mob because he still has the medieval coat on and they think he is the Golem. He barely escapes. Definitely one of the more intense chapters of the book.
“Light” finds us once more in Pernath’s room waiting for Hillel to arrive home. When he arrives with Zwahk in tow the conversation immediately starts in on the Golem’s appearance and a murder. While in this conversation Zwahk complains about not being able to find books unlocking the mysteries of God. This gives Hillel the opportunity to answer questions and give advice, albeit covertly, to Pernath. Everything he describes is exactly what Pernath experienced in the room with the Golem. it is here we begin the exploration of the Cabala and the Tarot. One thing I notice is that every time Pernath comes to a crisis spiritually the answers will come from the most unusual places, conversations. I have found in my own studies this to be the case as well.
In the next chapter “Care” we find out more about Charousek. He is in fact a bastard son of Wassertrum and he had Charousek’s mother sold into sexual slavery when he realized he was in love with her. It explains a great deal about Charousek and his obsession with Wassertrum. The latter half of the chapter enlightenes us further on Hillel and his daughter.
In the chapter “Fear” we are witness to what I believe is an initiation for Pernath. Initially he comes back to his rooms intending to go out but is held in place by an unnameable fear. The fear leads to a lethargy which I would liken to a trance state, since the body feels just like what he feels when in trance. He see’s an apparition without a face who is offering him some seeds which he is confused by. Later he becomes aware of two circles of people in different colored robes awaiting for him to make a choice. He slaps the beans out of the apparitions hand and it, as well as, one set of robed beings disappear leaving the bluish robed ones behind. After he is touched and talked to by one of the figures he enters a deep dreamless sleep.
In “Urge” we see Pernath going into a extremely creative mode after the above incident with his work. Also, things with Wasserstrum come to a head with a visit and argument in Pernath’s room.
“Eve” is an interesting chapter. All the women in Pernath’s life come into play at the same time. Miriam, Angelina, and Rosina. Initially Pernath was going to take Miriam out but she left when Angelina arrived. They went away to her estate where they had a most heavenly time it would appear. They are interestingly connected, for the previous night they dreamed a shared dream about each other.
On the way back Pernath gets lost and runs into a legend on the Street of Alchemists, a rock which is a building only seen at a certain time guarded by a blind Methusalah, which he tells everybody at the tavern about later. When he leaves the tavern he gets lost again and finds himself in the arms of Rosina and pulled inside a house. Possibly in the same cellar that is later mentioned now that I think of it.
“Ruse” we hear nothing more concerning the above. Instead Pernath is wanting to kill himself in his room. Fortunately Wasserstrum enters and seeks to suave things over between them. He offers him the gold watch he was seeking to have repaired previously but at that moment Charousek comes knocking and Wasserstrum hides. Charousek knows he is there and makes a grand show concerning his gratitude for Wasserstrums generosity to him earlier, which he says he can’t tell him to his face. He leaves a gift of poison and a Rose which came from Wasserstrum’s son killed himself for Pernath to give to him as a gift.
Once all had left he goes to the bank to withdraw all his savings, intent on still killing himself, but isn’t allowed for a period of days. So he leaves and while he is walking he notices he has been followed by a fellow from the bank. This man turns out to be Secret Police and he is hauled into the station. He is asked to tell everything he knows about Angelina and her affair with Savioli which he lies about. When he continues to deny everything about the affair he is then accused of the murder, the murder of Zottmann who’s watch Wasserstrum had just given to him.
In “Rack” we find Pernath imprisoned. For several weeks in this chapter alone.
In “May” things come to a head. It has been months since his imprisonment. We finally find out in a letter secreted in by the Regiment that Angelina had her divorce, kept her daughter, and ran off with Savioli. Wasserstrum was murdered by Loisa using the very file that Pernath had visualized using on Wasserstrum himself. Charousek was named the heir to the fortune held by Wasserstrum, and shortly Pernath should be hopefully released with new evidence they were trying to bring in.
The one really intersting thing is the admission by Charousek concerning occult knowledge and having seen words of light on Pernath’s chest once. A kindred soul it seems he seen in him. We are also introduced to one Amadeus Laponder.
“Moon” is another significant chapter. Laponder turns out to be one who can be used as a conduit for those of the occult community who know how to conversate via that channel. Through him Pernath is able, while the moon is upon him, to speak to Hillel and Miriam. When Laponder awakens they conversate about the occult, the paths of Life and Death. He describes the soul as fragmented and carried by one’s ancestors which I find somewhat close to my own opinion. Laponder is later taken out and hung and months later Pernath is released. While he is being released we find out he has inherited 1/3 of Charousek’s fortune as he has killed himself.
The ending of the book is rather crazy. Pernath rushes back to the Jewish Quarter to only find that it is all destroyed nearly the whole quarter has been torn apart. Hillel and Miriam are completely gone, nobody he knows remains. Only the house where the Golem goes is still there and this is where he eventually goes to live. On Christmas Eve there is a fire in the building. As everybody is jumping out he tries to lower himself down by a rope to escape. Along the way down he is stuck in front of the barred room where the Golem should be and he, hanging in the hanged man’s position from the Tarot card, sees Hillel and Miriam in the room and yells to them. And then everything ends as he falls. Which is exactly what happened in the story at the beginning of the book which was told in the tavern by Pernath’s friends.
The last chapter finds a man who has Pernath’s hat and seeks to return it. When he finally is able to it is at the Street of the Alchemist and the house of the hermaphrodite and he glimpses Pernath and Miriam in a glory.
What is interesting is that he has experienced all of these things by putting on the hat of Pernath. Pieces of a soul bouncing from a person to a person throughout time to experience all the truth that has happened.
The Golem is really an interesting book similar in vein to Dion Fortune’s works, who I really enjoy as well. This is the first book by Gustav Meyrink I have read but definitely not the last.