*’Human beings were now living in a new century, and millennium, but some of the outrage that once caused the Golems to take their own lives decades earlier was still very much present. […] The world was without shame or decency, and for that the Golems had no cure.’*
Thane Rosenbaum’s novel, “The Golems of Gotham”, is full of questions: few answered, many asked. Oliver Levin, one of the main characters in the book, is a mystery writer suffering from writer’s block, among other things. His teenage daughter, Ariel, is a klezmer violin prodigy who graces the streets of Manhattan with her musical presence. The book follows Ariel and Oliver as they come to terms with the double suicide of Oliver’s parents many years ago, Ariel’s mother’s sudden disappearance, and the presence of golems (two of which are Oliver’s parents).
One of the main subjects brought up throughout Rosenbaum’s novel is the Holocaust. Both of Oliver’s parents were Holocaust survivors who committed suicide in a synagogue, and the other golems that arrive to haunt Manhattan are all writers who also survived the Holocaust and committed suicide.
I found it surprising that the author used humour while writing a book with such a grim theme, but what’s even more surprising is the humour’s effectiveness. Rosenbaum’s writing style seems, to me, inclusive of a lot of things: insight, curiosity, humour, truth. By blending it all together in one hardcovered mass of paper, he manages to create a smoothie with a lingering aftertaste. This aftertaste is neither bad nor good; it just exists.
It’s hard to imagine the atrocities brought about by the Holocaust and its wake, especially if you’ve never known anyone who experienced it firsthand, but can we really say that the world is never going to repeat something like that again? It already does occur; it happens on a smaller scale, under the covers. Now I don’t mean to belittle the Holocaust, and I hope I don’t offend anyone either, but can we honestly say that humanity is far away from the damage done then? Rosenbaum brings up some extremely good points through the voices of both the living and the dead, some of which include the issue of humanity’s lack of decency, and the growing presence of disrespect and indifference.
A broken body does not necessarily mean a broken soul, but a broken soul will always mean a broken body. All of the survivors that committed suicide were broken souls living in a world they could not accept as whole.
“The Golems of Gotham” is not exactly a Holocaust novel; it is about what comes after, it is about the pieces left behind and trying to build something with those pieces.
Listening Suggestion: Rosie’s Lullaby by Norah Jones
Why? I don’t think anyone can go wrong with a Norah Jones piece, but maybe that’s just me. In all seriousness though, this song works because of its nature. Jones’s voice is perfect for a lullaby (even this one), and the guitar is reminiscent of the ocean and things associated with it. The lyrics are simple yet deep, and they seem to work for this post because of their simplicity and their depth; the simplicity provides contrast, while the depth adds even more meaning.
*Quote taken from Thane Rosenbaum’s “The Golems of Gotham”.
This post is dedicated to the memories of those who perished as a result of the Holocaust. It is also dedicated to those who were affected by it, and to those who know anyone touched by it.