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THE JEWISH SON by Daniel Guebel
Translated by Jessica Sequeira
The sketches on the cover ought to have given it away. Heck, I have a similar one tattooed on my left forearm. And yet I was somehow surprised - albeit pleasantly - to find this intriguing novella drawing heavily on the work of that prized Prague tourist attraction and inveterate doodler (among other things), Franz Kafka.
In Guebel’s book, a writer is forced to reconcile the tyrannical ideologue of his youth - a man fully and nobly committed to “the cause” but abusive at home - with the shrivelling, demented husk that is his father as the old man approaches death. It is a tender reckoning, one where conflicting emotions rage and Kafka’s Letter To His Father is inverted on the author himself. Much like his literary hero, Guebel goes off on intellectual and narrative tangents. Some, like the fable two thirds of the way through, are pure magic; a perfectly contained tale that recalls Before The Law (a personal favourite) in its allegorical precision.
What could easily have been sophisticated fan fiction is, in Guebel’s hands, a deeply felt and finely wrought book about what it means to really know your parents and, by extension, yourself.
The Jewish Son by Daniel Guebel (Tr. Jessica Sequeira)
Seven Stories Press, 2023