Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Short Story: Eliyahu ha-Navi by Mark Sparber

I read Eliyahu ha-Navi by Mark Sparber in Strange Horizons, another short story site. It is a Jewish science fiction with lots of fantasy elements.

"Although he was not recognizably human, in 1908 the old man was nevertheless recognizably Jewish. He looked as I imagine he must have looked for a thousand years. He was dwarfish and twisted, with long, gnarled limbs that grasped whatever they could clutch with a fierce clawing motion. His gray, matted beard and sidelocks met on the ground, where they tangled with each other and with the filthy fringes from his prayer shawl. He was small enough that my great-grandparents could fit him into an accordion case, and this is what they did, so that his moans and wheezing might be mistaken for the sound of wind running through an instrument's reeds."

This beginning sets the pace of this story which in a way defies description. Here prophet Elijah is brought to live in the new world. For the reason "It is Elijah that will tell the world of the Messiah's coming! He will go from door to door, knocking and saying, 'Gather your prayer shawl, gather your phylacteries! He is here! The Messiah is here!"

Elijah is taken to be a stinking old man. He is hated by the children yet they have to look after him. As an obligation for a better world, for the arrival of the Messiah.

When the narrator finds him in a bad state, we see a change in his heart. He no longer hates the pitiful prophet. He somehow has developed fondness for the wizened old man and prays for him to live.

The imagery in this story is good. It has that fantasy element which keeps us rivetted to the story. In the beginning, we hate the prophet but we slowly come to like him, even saddened when he falls ill. For all his fault, he seems like a helpless old man locked in a time period of not his making.

"From outside the room, from some distant hallway, I heard the moans and wheezes of an accordion."

I recommend.....