Robert Alter writes:
What is especially noteworthy about The Tables of the Law among Mannís fictions is its playfulness. Gravity is the more characteristic trait of Mannís writing, the reason Nabokov dismissed him as a pretentiously self-monumentalising nonentity. One scarcely thinks of playfulness in connection with Buddenbrooks or The Magic Mountain, and Joseph and His Brothers, whatever comic interludes it may include, tends to sink under the weight of its narrative detail and its narratorís lengthy lucubrations. Only the picaresque Confessions of Felix Krull, a sometimes hilarious novel that still retains its sprightliness, is an exception to this rule. By contrast to his long biblical novel, the rapid-paced brevity of The Tables of the Law is a distinct advantage, often pointing up the comic aspects of serious matters. Here, for example, is its paraphrase of part of the biblical code of laws, which sounds almost Voltairean, though without Voltaireís animus towards his subject:
For you live in the flesh, but are sworn to the Invisible One, and marriage is the epitome of all purity in the sight of God. For that reason you should not take a woman and her mother as well, to give only one example. That is unseemly. Nor should you ever, ever lie with your sister, to see her shame and she yours, for that is incest. You shouldnít even lie with your aunt, that is neither worthy of her nor of you, and you should shrink back from it.
(LRB 2 December 2010)
Haus | Hardback
130 pp. |ISBN: