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Adam Resurrected, Yoram Kaniuk (1971)

“I didn’t write it, God wrote it, and believe me, I tried to stop Him.”

Joshua Cohen
September 17, 2013

Adam Ben Kelev, the Hebrew title, means both “Adam, Son of Dog,” and “Man, Son of Dog.” Kaniuk, born 1930 in Tel Aviv, was a master of polysemy and provocation. Adam Stein is a famous and famously dissolute clown, mentalist, and animal trainer, caught by the war and shunted to a Nazi death camp whose commandant forces him to become a roll-over, sit, beg, fetch, play-dead pet. Stein’s canine transformation is not related so much as performed, within the proscenium of the American-funded, Negev-based Seizling Institute for Rehabilitation and Therapy, an asylum for Shoah survivors that is, abracadabra, a synecdoche for Israel—for more—for Jewish continuance. If Kaniuk, who died this year and was a friend, knew I’d be writing this blurb, he would’ve demanded to write it for me. The only thing he ever said to me about this novel that unsettled his country and made his name was, “I didn’t write it, God wrote it, and believe me, I tried to stop Him.” Then Yoram asked whether I thought he was being punished for not splitting the money from its film option.

Joshua Cohen was born in 1980 in Atlantic City. He has written novels (Book of Numbers), short fiction (Four New Messages), and nonfiction for The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, London Review of Books, The Forward, n+1, and others. He is the recipient of the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in fiction, for The Netanyahus: An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family. He lives in New York City.