For two thousand years, the brief ministry of a young Nazarene preacher has remained the largest single determinant of Western civilization's triumphs and disasters. Now, Norman Mailer has written a novel about Jesus's life. Is God speaking to me? Jesus asks. Or am I hearing voices? If the voices are from God, why has He chosen me as His son? And if they are not from God, then who gave me the power to perform these miracles?
It soon becomes evident that we are being told the story of a skilled and most devout carpenter who is living with prodigious questions. The result is an intimately readable account of a man thrust forward by the visions he receives, the sermons he offers, and the miracles he enacts until he comes to the apocalyptic end of his powers.
The Gospel According to the Son vividly recreates the world of Galilee and Jerusalem two thousand years ago. In a time of uneasy stability, the Holy Land is governed by a complacent but fearful establishment who rule over a despairing underclass -- it is a time of great change, open to comparison with our own. Mailer's signal accomplishment is to create for us a man wholly unlike others who is nonetheless filled with passion and doubt, strength and weakness; a protagonist divine and human, a son of God who shares our condition.
In The Gospel According to the Son, one of America's greatest living writers has brought us a remarkable book -- by turns bold, thoughtful, poetic, tragic, passionate, and, to our surprise and pleasure, suspenseful.
From the Hardcover edition.
In those days, I was the one who came down from Nazareth to be baptized by John in the River Jordan. And the gospel of Mark would declare that on my immersion, the heavens opened, and I saw "a spirit like a dove descending." A mighty voice said "You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased." Then the Spirit drove me into the wilderness, and I was there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan.
While I would not say that Mark's gospel is without truth, I would say that it is much exaggerated. And I would offer less for Matthew, Luke and John who gave me words I never uttered, and described me as gentle when I was pale with rage. Their words were written many years after I was gone, and only repeat what other men told them. Very old men. Such tales are to be leaned upon no more than a bush that is cut away from its root and blown about by the wind.
So I will try to give my own account. For those who ask how my words have come to this page, I would tell them to look upon all that is here as no more than a small miracle. (My gospel, after all, will speak of miracles.) Yet, I hope to remain closer to the truth ...From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from The Gospel According to the Son by Norman Mailer. Copyright © 1997 by Norman Mailer. Excerpted by permission of Random House Trade Paperbacks, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
About Norman Mailer
Born in 1923, Norman Mailer was one of the most important American writers of the post–World War II era and a leading intellectual since the 1960s. He is the author of more than thirty books. The Castle in the Forest, his last novel, was the eleventh of his books to appear on the New York Times bestseller list. His first novel, The Naked and the Dead, was on the Times list for sixty-three weeks and has never gone out of print. His 1968 nonfiction narrative, The Armies of the Night, won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. He won a second Pulitzer for The Executioner’s Song and is the only person to have won Pulitzers in both fiction and nonfiction. Five of his books were nominated for National Book Awards, and he won a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Foundation in 2005. Mr. Mailer died in 2007.
"A STAGGERING WORK."--The Philadelphia Inquirer
"BOLD . . . DARING."--The New York Times Book Review
"A TRIUMPH."--Publishers Weekly
"A REMARKABLE TESTAMENT TO THE HUMANITY OF A MAN WHO TROD THE DIVINE."--The Philadelphia Inquirer
"[A] BRAVE, BEAUTIFUL, AND AMBITIOUS NEW NOVEL . . . Only a novelist as daring as Mailer would attempt to retell the story of Jesus in Jesus' own words. . . . Its penetration into Jesus' human heart rivals Dostoyevsky for depth and insight. Its re-creation of the world through which Jesus walked is as real as blood. Ultimately, Mailer convinces, more than any writer before him, that for Jesus the man it could have been just like this; and that is, in itself, some sort of literary miracle."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"QUIETLY PENETRATING . . . FRESH . . . FERVENT . . . His gospel is written in a direct, rather relaxed English that yet has an eerie, neo-Biblical dignity."--John Updike, The New Yorker
"A BOOK OF CONSIDERABLE INTELLECTUAL FORCE . . . The writer's powerful mind works in a specialized way, not by theological argumentation but by telling or retelling a story."--The New York Review of Books