SET IN RURAL HUNGARY at the turn of the twentieth century and never before translated into English, Azarel chronicles the rebellious doings of young Gyuri, son of a rabbi in a modern Jewish sect. Papa Jeremiah, the paternal grandfather and an Orthodox fanatic, believes that by consorting and living with "pagans" whose "hirelings" they were, his son and his followers are helping to "melt the Jewish people in the furnaces of exile" - prophetic and haunting language for a book first published in 1937.
Taking him from his parents, Papa Jeremiah raises Gyuri in a tent for his first few years, and the boy suffers when the imperious old man, to whom he has become devoted in a child's deep way, dies. Gyuri is forced to return to his parents, who are now almost strangers to him. Rigid and respectable, the rabbi father expects filial obedience and Judaic devotion from his son, but gets something quite different. The boy is furious at Judaism and at his father for trying to make him believe in a God he has little use for. Eventually he leaves home, begs on the streets, and finally hurls himself into an early breakdown. At last he is returned to his parents, who consider his illness a reconciliation.
Dramatized with a sensibility that echoes Isaac Babel and Henry Roth, this is a realistic and powerful story, narrated with authority and force, by one of Hungary's finest writers.show more