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A Guide to the Perplexed [Paperback]

Gilad Atzmon
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

24 Oct 2002
The year is 2052, and the state of Israel has been defunct for forty years, the majority of its citizens having become refugees overseas. In order to provide Israel with a decent burial, an Institute for the Documentation of Zion is established, and among its archives is the autobiography of one Gunther W?nker. A Guide to the Perplexed is the story of Gunther?s life. Born in Israel, Gunther becomes fiercely anti-Zionist through the experience of national service. He loves European, especially German, women and soon leaves Israel to find fame, fortune and fornication in Germany: cultured country of his ancestors whose collective guilt-trip is a goldmine for the licentious professor. Before long Gunther is a famous professor of philosophy and the founder of ?Peepology? - an intellectual discipline derived from the exile's position as voyeur. A Guide to the Perplexed is a darkly funny reflection on the dangers of racial purity and the position of the outsider in Western Europe. Gilad Atzmon's book marries the playfulness of Nabokov with the sexiness of Philip Roth. It is an angry reflection on the effects of ethnic cleansing of both our bodies and our minds.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail; New edition edition (24 Oct 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852428260
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852428266
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 19.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 820,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Atzmon's book is one of the funniest books I have come across. He manages to finely scrutinize male apathy and to come up with very accurate observations about men, women and unimportant subjects such as global politics' Ynet; 'A brilliant hidden Nabokovian approach' Maariv; 'Plucks on the most sensitive strings of Israeil society' Haaretz

About the Author

Gilad Atzmon grew up in Israel. National Service in the army made him a convinced anti-Zionist. He now lives in London where he is a prominent jazz saxophonist, playing with the Orient House Ensemble. Since 1998 Atzmon has toured with the late Ian Dury's legendary backing band, The Blockheads.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
My name is Gunther, a name given to me by my parents or, more precisely, by my grandfather, my father's father, whose appreciation and admiration of German culture were boundless. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not one for granny 31 Dec 2002
I wasn't sure whether I was going to like Guide to the Perplexed. It was jokingly billed by its author as a story about blow up dolls - and I couldn't imagine that being particularly entertaining or inspiring. But it's not all about blow up dolls - though it has to be admitted that the short section about them is screamingly funny.
The story is about a man Gunther Wunker and his views and experiences of those great perplexing issues of life - violence, war, heroism, sex, politics, identity, relationships, status and professional recognition. It's a breathtakingly revealing account of a man's preoccupations contexualised within a troubled political history. These preoccupations are described in a wry, well-observed and extremely humorous style.
The book comes with a bit of a content warning. Lets say you wouldn't describe it as subtle or reverential in terms of relationships and sexuality. The sexual content would probably be described as pretty explicit and slightly obsessive! Personally, I liked the way it reveals the ridiculous nature of sex. There is something rather raw, real and unromanticised about it. But erotic it is not.
Two key themes run through the book - a fairly merciless parody of academia (Gunther becomes an esteemed expert in "peepology" - the study of voyeurism) and Gunther's political identity as an anti-Zionist. This is the part of the story that left me most uneasy. Gunther seems cynical and isolated in relation to his Jewish history. I couldn't locate any vision for the future or any strategy to realise that vision. The future posed in the book in political terms seems fantastical. What it communicates most readily is despair.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
17 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sex, Philosophy, Politics,..... 21 May 2003
By Karin M Hussain - Published on Amazon.com
This is a book that I could not put down. It is a treasure. I would have to say it is the best book I have ever read. The story is complex and subtle, and written with deep intelligence camoflauged behind what appears to be crude humor. Atzmon's philosophy of the psychology of the human being, and how the soul flounders helplessly between being consumed by desires and reaching for the divine is devastatingly poignant as political connections are made between this and the pleasure-obsessed consumer culture as the sublimation of denial and anger into a zen experience of lust.
The story is about the search for absolute love in today's sick society. "A Guide to the Perplexed" explores cultural identity in exile, the nihilism of the overfed, the collapse of the western democratic ideal, the existential fear of the absurd, and the subsequent withdrawal of society into collective schizophrenia.
The book takes on an incredible task of explaining the world through the philosophical framework of Peepology. This philosophy is actually very close to the Islamic philosophy of Turkish philosopher Harun Yahya in his book, "The Truth of the Life of This World" (harunyahya.org). However, Gilad Atzmon's parable of Al-Haqq (Reality) is far more entertaining and crass. Ultimately, the Bible itself is broken down into "word as meaning in flux within the anecdotal context," therefore annihilating the basis for the historical claims of the "Chosen People. This book is a delightful thought crime. It changed my life.
9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Picaresque Dystopia 7 May 2003
By E. L. Megel - Published on Amazon.com
It's a screed - and like many, one should pay attention - but be on guard.
This novel is not what it promises. The title is taken from Maimonedes, the great 12th Century Jewish Physician/Philosopher/Talmud Chochom (wise man) - but this novel has nothing to do with the style or substance of The RAMBAM (as Maimonedes is affectionately known in the Jewish world). It is the picaresque tale of one Gunther Wunker who escapes a latter day (but near term) Israel before it falls - the author's loathing of this state is palpable and unredeemed. What he does give us is a fitfully amusing picaresque tale of a n'er-do-well who never finds his place in the world - though the world tries to give him an honored one. Atzmon mixes metaphors like crazy and never delivers on a clear vision of why Israel may fall or what should take its place. Just the story of a dislikable man.
Because it's a short little screed, and amusing in reasonable intervals - it's digestible. I recommend one digest it - if Atzmon represents what could have been Israel's best and brightest of the generation who should be running things now - and I believe he DOES (brightest, at least) - we need to know what failed and why (Atzmon's no help there).
4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rarity 20 May 2005
By Mark Levine - Published on Amazon.com
Those finding Atzmon's book fascinating should be hipped to his group's new CD, Exiles, which essentially raises the same points musically as he does here verbally. There is an irony in this Israeli's use of Israeli songs to suggest contrary opinions of Israeli policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians. The rhythms are mid-Eastern, the substance is thought-provoking, the liner notes are in-your-face anti-Zionist, and the whole business is straight-on, sincere, controversial, and--- musically--- quite beautiful.

This is that rarity: a commentator at home woth both words and music.
5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A reflective and fearless critical look 15 Sep 2003
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Deftly written by Gilad Atzmon, A Guide To The Perplexed is a dark novel set in the near future. The year is 2052, and the state of Israel has become defunct, -- and most of its surviving former citizenry are overseas refugees. The story of one Gunther Wunker is revealed -- a man who became anti-Zionist and founded the "Peepology" intellectual discipline with its roots in the exile's position as voyeur. A reflective and fearless critical look at the evils of ethnic cleansing and the looming threat of dystopia, A Guide To The Perplexed is one of those vivid, apocalyptic glimpses of an all too possible future.
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingly funny dry sense of humor 16 Aug 2005
By Ronnie Lavon - Published on Amazon.com
Although this is a very political book, it manages to discuss everything from sex to food, and does it in a very funny and entertaining way. This book reminded me very much of Gunther Grass's "stream of consciousness" novels in the way it connects politics and bodily functions in the most amusing way.

As to the central theme that Israel (or rather, the "Zionist Experiment") has failed totally and its end is near - this conclusion, no doubt, will anger many Zionists (just like Gunther Grass's books angered many a Christian Democrat in Germany).

The "Guide To The Perplexed" is filled with the ambivalence political refugees feel. On the one hand they cannot (will not) live in their "fatherland". On the other hand, they miss the food, the smells, the language, all the things that make life worth living.....
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