As you can tell from the title, Sholem Asch’s The Nazarene is a retelling of the story of Jesus of Nazareth.
If you have read any of the novels dealing with the religious history of the period, you will expect to find the story told by a fictional unbeliever who is an eye-witness to the events related in the gospels.
Asch is true to type there.
What he does that’s totally unexpected — and thoroughly bizarre — is to have the story told by two narrators. Both are first century characters whose souls are transmigrated to 1930s Warsaw.
The one narrator, Pan Viadomsky, is a Catholic nutcase who has been mixed up in all kinds of religious frauds. Pan believes he is the Roman Centurian who supervised the crucifixion.
The other narrator, a devout Jew who helps Pan Viadomsky translate a Hebrew manuscript, comes to realize he was a pupil of Rabbi Nicodemus in a previous life.
The plot reads like the creation of inmates at an insane asylum.
Asch’s prose plods with elephantine grace. The paragraphs are sometimes a page long. The novel goes on, and on, and on.
I suggest you go on without it.The Nazarene
By Sholem Asch
Trans. Maurice Samuel
G. P. Putnam’s 1939
1940 # 5
My Grade: C-