In old age, I seldom keep the books I read, but The Books of Jacob has been shelved next to Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah; my copy of the latter bears an inscription on its flyleaf, “Gift of Jacob Taubes to Tantur, 1978,” which in some way (possibly mystical) authenticates bringing the two books together. It seems I have been waiting for the conjunction since first reading Gerhom Scholem on the Frankists, in his Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, in the carriage of a train waiting to depart from New Street Station, Birmingham, sometime in the mid-1980s. It was a moment of revelation; reading Tokarczuk has been too.

A major literary achievement—no question: published in Polish in 2014, Tokarczuk's narrative meditation on the Frankists is a model of what may be done by integrating imagination with documentation. This is how what is loosely termed historical fiction should be...

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