Michel Tournier's "Eleazar, Exodus to the West" is a modern successor to two seemingly disparate myths-the biblical adventure of the Exodus and the nineteenth-century myth of the American frontier. The setting is 1845. Eleazar, a Protestant minister, leaves his native Ireland with his wife and two children to emigrate to America. Like the Old ...
Michel Tournier's "Eleazar, Exodus to the West" is a modern successor to two seemingly disparate myths-the biblical adventure of the Exodus and the nineteenth-century myth of the American frontier. The setting is 1845. Eleazar, a Protestant minister, leaves his native Ireland with his wife and two children to emigrate to America. Like the Old Testament Moses, with whom Eleazar comes to identify through the course of the novel, Eleazar has committed a justifiable murder and is forced to leave his home. After landing in Virginia, the family travels west toward what Eleazar believes is the Promised Land of California. While in the Colorado desert, however, he experiences a profound epiphany. He understands for the first time how the prophet Moses was tragically torn between fire and water: between the burning bush, with its power to bring him into contact with the voice of Yahweh, and the banal demands of the Hebrew people in exile, who depended on him to touch his stick to the rock and bring forth water. "Eleazar, Exodus to the West" parallels the lives of the two misfits-the Irish minister in the American West and the Hebrew Moses in exile in the desert after leaving Egypt. Tournier sets before us timeless issues and tantalizing questions from our mythological past: Moses' personality and peculiar relationship with God, fundamental contradictions between the Old and the New Testaments, and our own intimate bond with the eternal symbols of fire and water.
Publishers Weekly, 2002-03-25 As in his seven previous novels (Friday; The Ogre), prolific French author Tournier draws on biblical myths to construct an effective analogy between the trail blazed by Moses during the Exodus and the path taken by American pioneers to reach California. In the 1840s, Eleazar O'Braid, an Irish shepherd with a passion for scripture, meets his future wife, Esther, when he moves from Connemara to "aggressively Catholic" Galway to pursue his studies with an Anglican minister. Despite their religious differences, Esther and Eleazer's union is happy, and the couple has two children, Ben and Cora. The family is forced to flee to Cork during the potato famine, but Cora's innocent wisdom dictates yet another trip, this time across the Atlantic to Portsmouth, Va. From there O'Braid decides to migrate to St. Louis, but his ongoing preoccupation with Moses' journey lures him further west. The initial optimism that marks their pilgrimage turns bitter when a dispute between their fellow travelers leads to a miscarriage of justice, and Eleazar elects to strike out on his own despite the dangers posed by the Sierra Nevada trail. His fears prove valid when Ben is bitten by a rattlesnake, but an encounter with a mysterious Native American healer provides a miraculous cure, and the family finally reaches the promised land. The narrative reads like a parable, but Tournier's spare style conceals a thought-provoking series of twists and turns as he pulls off a risky concept with economy and depth, and a contemporary relevance. (May 4) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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