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The Second Scroll

The Second Scroll

Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 296
  • Book Info
    The Second Scroll
    Book Description:

    First published in 1951, The Second Scroll is the only novel by A.M. Klein, a complex work rich with biblical, talmudic, kabbalistic, and literary allusions. This scholarly edition annotates and restores the text to Klein's original vision.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8232-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xxvi)

    WhenThe Second Scrollfirst appeared in 1951, it was greeted with both enthusiasm and perplexity. Reviewers described it as a brilliant modernist experiment in form and language, a travelogue with pretensions, and a new Haggadah, a Passover liturgy for contemporary Jewry. Some criticized it for being so weighted down with Jewish cultural and religious allusions as to be inaccessible to a gentile reader, while others praised it as a quintessentially ′Canadian′ novel in that, ′as Canadians, we take our life from the fruitful collision and interpretation of many inheritances.′¹ Still others read it as a symbolic narrative universal in...

  4. Editorial Procedures
    (pp. xxvii-xxx)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxxi-xxxii)
  6. Biographical Chronology
    (pp. xxxiii-xxxvi)

    • Genesis
      (pp. 5-12)

      For many years my father – may he dwell in a bright Eden! – refused to permit in his presence even the mention of that person′s name. The mere imminence of an allusion to my uncle soon brought my father to an oblique deliberative ominous knuckle-combing of his beard, a sombre knitting of his brow, and froze at last his face to the stony stare Semitic. The tabu was recognized, and the subject was dropped.

      Not that my father was by nature a furious man; he was, as a matter of fact, kind and gentle and of a very forgiving...

    • Exodus
      (pp. 13-21)

      When as a young boy, the consolations and prophecies of Isaiah before me, I dreamed in the dingy Hebrew school the apocalyptic dream of a renewed Zion, always I imagined it as coming to pass thus: First I heard the roar and thunder of the battle of Gog and Magog; then, as silence fell, I saw through my mind′s eye a great black aftermath cloud filling the heavens across the whole length of the humped horizon. The cloud then began to scatter, to be diminished, to subside, until revealed there shone the glory of a burnished dome – Hierosolyma the...

    • Leviticus
      (pp. 22-34)

      As the plane roared over the Atlantic, and I read and re-read my uncle′s letter, his enthusiasm took hold of me and I saw myself, too, as part of the great reenactment, knew myself borne to my destination, if only for a spying out of the land, ′on the wings of eagles.′ My very levitation seemed a miracle in harmony with the wonder of my time; through my mind there ran the High Holiday praise of God for that He did ′suspend worlds on withoutwhat,′ even as my plane was suspended, even as over the abyss of recent history there...

    • Numbers
      (pp. 35-44)

      Whatever the motives were that impelled Uncle Melech toward Casablanca, his instincts were sound. I, too, that first day, fell in love with this beautiful city of the Moghreb el Aksa which, arrayed in all the colours of Islam, stands mirroring itself in the mirror of Atlantic. As upon some Circean strand magical with voices, I could have halted my travels there; indeed, it was music, a singing that issued like silken coloured thread from the door of a café hard by the Hotel des Ambassadeurs, where I had just registered for my initial Arabian night, that first snared me,...

    • Deuteronomy
      (pp. 45-62)

      The flight to Israel, from the moment when we rose over the Mediterranean to the moment when the plane banked and the land lay before us like an open slanted Bible, was a smooth going through space above calm dozing leviathans of water and over clouds, herds of white horses, maned, rounded, rampant.

      Warmed by the sun beating through the porthole, my mind was dreamily in communion with the murmur of the motors humming through aluminum. They made me whatever music my mind willed, ululative, messianic, annunciatory. It was as if I was part of an ascension, a going forward...

      (pp. 63-65)

      Out of the ghetto streets where a Jewboy

      Dreamed pavement into pleasant Bible-land,

      Out of the Yiddish slums where childhood met

      The friendly beard, the loutish Sabbath-goy,

      Or followed, proud, the Torah-escorting band,

      Out of the jargoning city I regret,

      Rise memories, like sparrows rising from

      The gutter-scattered oats,

      Like sadness sweet of synagogal hum,

      Like Hebrew violins

      Sobbing delight upon their Eastern notes.

      Again they ring their little bells, those doors

      Deemed by the tender-year′d, magnificent:

      Old Ashkenazi′s cellar, sharp with spice;

      The widows′ double-parloured candy-stores

      And nuggets sweet bought for one sweaty cent;

      The warm fresh-smelling bakery, its...

      (pp. 66-70)

      Named for my father′s father, cousin, whose cry

      Might have been my cry lost in that dark land –

      Where shall I seek you? On what wind shall I

      Reach out to touch the ash that was your hand?

      The Atlantic gale and the turning of the sky

      Unto the cubits of my ambience

      Scatter the martyr-motes. Flotsam-of-flame!

      God′s image made the iotas of God′s name!

      Oh, through a powder of ghosts I walk; through dust

      Seraphical upon the dark winds borne;

      Daily I pass among the sieved white hosts,

      Through clouds of cousinry transgress,

      Maculate with the ashes that...

      (pp. 71-78)

      ... to the Sistine Chapel; and so to me the long passage through the marble corridors leading to the beatific door was no more than a flotation upon a channel of foam, a transit between walls of wind forgotten as soon as blown. The white statuary of that ghostly gantlet I recall as but a series of pale shadows, a spectral escort. I do not even remember my walking; like something dreamed in a dream of walking on water, such and such feebly the recollection of that calm wan floor. The ceiling – was there really a ceiling above these...

      (pp. 79-99)

      BAGHDAD. The Gates of Justice. A raised, canopied dais, as yet unoccupied, guarded by four soldiers with scimitars. Before it, a concourse of litigants, chained criminals, merchants, beggars.

      Allah be praised! the hungry week has passed

      And the Gates of Justice thronged again – we thrive!

      And high time! Ah, this poor purse, it has had

      A lean and constricted week,

      Its strings, folded and fallow, like a gut at Ramadan ...

      But today it will gorge. This sweet congregation of guilt

      Palsied with fear and philanthropy, it will pay

      The long fast of our adjournment. And they are many...

      (pp. 100-105)

      Blessed art thou, O Lord,

      Who in Thy wisdom hast fashioned man as Thou hast fashioned him: hollowed and antrious, grottoed and gutted, channelled; for mercy′s sake gifted with orifice, exit, and vent!

      Did one of these only suffer obstruction, survives not the hour that man!

      Thy will according, there drops the baneful excess: the scruff falls; from the pores surreptitious the sweat; and the nails of the fingers are cut; the demons are houseless.

      Be blessed for the judgment of the eight great gates who dost diminish us to make us whole; for the piecemeal deaths that save; for...

      (pp. 106-106)

      I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.

      O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.

      O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

      Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.

      For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in...

  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. 107-108)
  9. Textual Notes
    (pp. 109-118)
  10. Explanatory Notes
    (pp. 119-180)
  11. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  12. Appendix A: Selections from ′Notebook of a Journey′ [CJC, 12 August–23 December 1949]
    (pp. 181-204)
  13. Appendix B: Transcription of Speech on Trip to Israel [24 October 1949]; Manuscript Notes for Speaking Engagements
    (pp. 205-220)
  14. Appendix C: Memorandum on Trip to Israel, etc.
    (pp. 221-223)