Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Payback for reincarnation as a fly

by Salman Hameed

I think the idea is fantastic and would make a fascinating film. Here is a novel by Rebecca Miller, Jacob's Folly, where an 18th century Parisian Jew is reincarnated as a housefly on Long Island in the 21st century in the home of a Orthodox Jewish family. He initially thinks he is an angel - and then is a bit upset about being a housefly and wants to punish God for his fate. Great cover for the novel as well.
A Parisian Jew who dies in 1773 reappears in the 21st century as an angel, fluttering gently down to Earth — or, so he thinks. He imagines himself as "a fully formed Christian seraph, a Viking with blond hair, a beautiful chiseled torso, hairless feet, and eyes the color of whiskey." So imagine his shock when he realizes he's no angel — he's actually been reincarnated as a common housefly.
The fly, formerly Parisian Jewish peddler Jacob Cerf, has supernatural powers. He can read minds and can actually will people to do what he wants them to do.
"He realizes the scope of his powers gradually in the narrative," Miller tells NPR's Melissa Block. "And then, once he realizes he's a fly, he's so angry at the form of his reincarnation that he decides to sort of get back at God." 
Jacob wants to punish God by taking good people and turning them bad. But Miller says she wouldn't call her protagonist an "evil character": "He's mischievous and sometimes malevolent, but he has his own transformation through the arc of this story."

Listen to a short interview with Rebecca Miller on NPR. The perspective is different, but if interested, you should also check out Shalom Auslander's book, The Foreskin's Lament: A Memoir. It is funny, poignant, and provides a fascinating account of struggling with faith (and the relation with God) in an Orthodox world (also see this earlier post: God out to get Shalom Auslander). This genre reminds me a bit of Ghalib's poetry. But I was wondering if there are novels by Muslim authors which explore a similar territory?


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