Monday, July 26, 2010

Jerusalem by Andrea Frediani

JerusalemSUMMARY (by the publisher): Jerusalem is one of the greatest historical stories about early Christianity and the cruel crusade wars.


I was surprised when finding out that this book hadn’t yet been published in English. I normally review the books written in English or translated into English. But I will make an exception for this one, because it really is that good.

The plot of Jerusalem is very complex. There is a frame story which takes place in 70 AD, when a young boy is trying to sneak into demolished Jerusalem under Roman attack to retrieve the scripts of Saint Jacob, Jesus’s brother. The main story is set in the time of the first crusade.  The true agenda behind the first crusade is to find the previously mentioned scripts which could endanger the existence of the Catholic Church. Within the main story we follow the lives of eight heroes involved in the crusades.

Frediani manages to combine all these fragments into a cohesive unit very well. The transitions between the frame story and the main story and between the focuses on each of the eight individual characters are smooth, perfectly paced and in the right places. Detailed descriptions of military strategies are complemented by vivid illustrations of cruel battles and inhuman brutalities of the crusaders. The harsh scenes are afterwards softened by personal quests for redemption and noble, selfless actions of the main heroes and heroines. Interwoven throughout the plot are the most intriguing issues of the Christian faith.

Personally, I think the war and romance themes in Jerusalem are just a camouflage which Frediani uses to cleverly disguise his views about Christianity, especially about the Catholic Church. However, the writer is very tactful about expressing his sometimes quite heretic opinion. Frediani doesn’t want to insult anyone, instead, he pleases everyone. Those who think the Catholic Church misinterprets Jesus’s teaching and exploits it for its own benefit can find a confirmation of their belief in this book just as the true followers of the Catholic Church.

Furthermore, in the world after 9/11 Frediani tries to reconcile the Western (the Jewish and the Christian) and the Eastern (the Islamic world) through the conversations of the main characters set in Jerusalem nine hundred years before where they discover common points in their beliefs. Doing that, Frediani reminds the reader of the sad fact that the situation in the world and especially in Jerusalem today is no more different than it was two thousand or nine hundred years ago. In some parts of the book I had a very strong feeling of being asked a question: why doesn’t anyone do anything to change it?

Overall, Jerusalem is an extraordinary work for its complex plot, excellent style and the very powerful topics it opens. Basically, Jerusalem is a criticism of any religious fanaticism.

RECOMMENDATION: A must read book, but you need to be sure in your beliefs and have a strong stomach.

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