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The Procedure [Paperback]

Harry Mulisch
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 24 2002
Internationally renowned novelist Harry Mulisch's The Procedure is a haunting and fascinating novel about two men who try to create life but fail. In the late sixteenth century, Rabbi Jehudah Löw, in order to guarantee the safety of the Jews in Prague, creates a golem by following a procedure outlined in a third-century cabalist text. Four hundred years later, Victor Werker, a Dutch biologist mourning the loss of his stillborn daughter, causes an international uproar when he creates a complex organic clay crystal that can reproduce and has a metabolism. But his unsettling discovery takes its toll as his inner and outer demons pursue him around the world, from California to Venice, Cairo, and Jerusalem.


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From Publishers Weekly

When Mulisch's masterpiece, The Discovery of Heaven, was published in the United States (1997), it was hailed as his magnum opus. His newest again approaches science from a literary perspective this time the creation of life from inanimate matter. God created Adam from clay; Doctor Frankenstein used the parts of corpses; Pygmalion used marble. Victor Werker, a middle-aged scientist, has discovered an "eobiont" a clay crystal with metabolic properties and self-reproducing powers. That such discoveries lead to disaster is prefigured in the admonitory tale that begins the book, a retelling of the story of Rabbi Jehudah L”w, a 16th-century Prague rabbi who, at the behest of the mystagogic emperor, Rudolf II (a man who kept half the charlatans of Europe at his court), animated a clay figure, or golem. The golem promptly killed L”w's son-in-law, Isaac. Fast-forward to Victor in Berkeley, where he is writing letters to his ex-lover Clara, ostensibly addressed to their dead daughter, Aurora. Victor's eobiont has made him famous, but his power to create life normally has been cruelly thwarted: Clara left him after her pregnancy resulted in a stillbirth. Victor is a mixture of appealing gentleness and appalling egotism, especially when it comes to jockeying for credit for the eobiont, and he has totally (and in his mind justly) supplanted his partner, Brock. Now he thinks Brock is behind the phoned threats that seem to dog Victor but are the calls real or just symptoms of his paranoia? Although it feels somewhat disjointed overall, like a fantasia between novels, Mulisch's obviously powerful literary intelligence is at work here. (July 9)Forecast: The esteem Mulisch gained for The Discovery of Heaven will probably ensure respectful reviews, but lame jacket art (a clay-covered fist) and the lurking sense that this is a minor work may discourage potential buyers.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The central events in the life of Dutch microbiologist Viktor Werner are that he has created a life a living organism made from clay in the laboratory and experienced a death, with the loss of his unborn daughter. The genetic and scientific details of the creation are convincingly rendered, and Viktor's attempts to come to grips with his lost daughter and to resurrect a relationship with her mother form the emotional core of the novel. Operating on many levels, the book also recounts the tale of a rabbi in 16th-century Prague who creates a golem, the legendary automaton of occult Judaism. Recurring motifs of occultism, parallels between sacred systems and scientific formulas, a woman's fertilization cycle, and the DNA code all intertwine into a mystery with a surprise ending. Here, Dutch novelist Mulisch continues some of the scientific and philosophical themes of his previous novel, The Discovery of Heaven (LJ 10/15/96), with thought-provoking results. Recommended for academic and larger public
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable! Oct. 7 2003
Format:Paperback
It all started with the creation of Adam. But doesn't the bible tell us that man and woman were created equally? If so, Eve could not have been the first woman, because she was created out of Adam's rib. Who is than the first woman? The answer: Lilith. When Victor Werker is born nobody has a clue that he will turn out to be one of the most renowned scientist of the twenty-first century. His future accomplishment will come close to what God did when he created man: he will give life to death material, a new form of life called the eobiont. But is this a good thing or will he have to justify his actions because he unwillingly created an evil Lilith?
Harry Mulish is at his best in this metaphysical story about the most powerful subject of all time: life. At the start of the story you easily loose track of what it is all about, but this is clearly done on purpose. As some kind of inauguration the reader is offered a speed course in the biblical study of letters and numbers. Once you have struggled through this first episode the impact of what follows is even more surreal.
Slowly but steadily the scope of the book widens and flirts with topics like the human genome, twin studies and Egyptology. Although the book nears epic proportions, Mulish never looses track of the essence. Constantly he surprises the reader with new viewpoints and digs deeper in the soul of the protagonist. Victor Werker is not different from anyone else, although his impact on science has been enormous. On the run for the past, he does nothing but chase his own shadow. When finally he notices that the future has much in common with what has been, he can do nothing but start to embrace his past. Like atoms that collide, this act of defeatism leads to total catastrophe, but also to the sweetest redemption.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful Reflection on Genetics and Life June 17 2003
Format:Paperback
"The Procedure" (2001), by Harry Mulisch (b. 1927), is the thoughtful story of Victor Werker, a genetics scientist at UC Berkeley who explores the meaning of life from a scientific angle, inventing a new form of life called the eobiont, and with a philosophical tone, writing fatherly autobiographical letters to his daughter Aurora, named for the Roman goddess of dawn.
The book starts with the legendary story of Rabbi Jehudah Loew (Löw), a leader of the Jewish community of Prague in 1592, called by Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II to make him a golem, a man-made being of clay. He fears sacrilege, not to mention abject failure, but ultimately agrees. Loew is a man of Hebrew letters, the symbolic glyphs of his faith. Will his knowledge of those sacred symbols help him uncover the metaphysical key to life, bestowing it upon lifeless clay?
From Loew's colorful Prague, we jump back to our own time, to the story of Victor Werker's birth in Amsterdam a few years after World War Two, and the various tales and complications of the pregnancy and birth. Victor becomes a geneticist, and studies the letters of genetic sequencing, A, C, G, and T, the idiomatic symbols of his own profession. Will his education of those four letters unlock the scientific mystery of life, granting it to lifeless matter?
Victor invents an organism he calls the eobiont, "Life's Dawn". He becomes famous, and suffers the jealousy of Barend Brock, a colleague spurned by Victor after he tries to take credit for Victor's discovery. Victor diarizes his relationship to Clara, including Clara's pregnancy and their break-up, through letters to their daughter Aurora.
This novel is foremost of ideas. Today's metaphysical novelist's challenge seems to update the tale of Frankenstein (or Prometheus) to the age of genetics.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Timely March 14 2002
Format:Hardcover
Genetic engineering, the mapping of the Human Genome, and Cloning are all intensely debated issues at present. All are generally viewed as parts of the absolute leading edge of high technology. Genetically engineered life forms have been patented, the Human Genome has been mapped, and despite the political and religious protestations, cloning has continued to duplicate ever more complex replicas of life. And while laws are contemplated and passed forbidding the cloning of a human, it is not only likely, but also probable that such research proceeds somewhere.
The creation of life by mortal man has been routinely held as the ultimate taboo against nature and deeply held religious beliefs. Harry Mulisch writes in his book, "The Procedure", of two instances of creation and demonstrates the idea and perhaps the practice is not only far from new, it is centuries old. In the late 16th Century a Rabbi creates a Golem for a King, the procedure for which is outlined in a 3rd Century Text. Then in the 20th Century a Scientist creates a very primitive organic organism from non-organic materials, which gains the name eobliant. A Golem and the primitive organism that is created 400 years later have little in common as final products. The latter is a test tube creation while the former is, well the book will explain.
The commonality between these two events is obvious, and if I read the work correctly, the obvious is not what the author intended. The writing is deceptively straightforward to read. The Rabbi has an arguably valid and selfless reason for what he does, our contemporary scientist does not. The author diverges along the way with the tale of Frankenstein, the author and her contemporaries, but writing about an act and practicing it are widely separated issues.
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