Take one grandiose, petulant God, add (his?) Abram and Sarai from Genesis, put the iconoclastic Sarai centre-stage, and you have the makings of Jenny Diski's eighth novel, Only Human: A Comedy
. Readers have come to count on Diski's work for its uncomfortable challenges and witty subversions. Here she tackles the biblical account of origins, but her version is filled with sly volte-faces and lovely twists: Who creates who? Who can claim ownership of the grand narrative? Why believe?
Sarai's story is one of innocence tempered by longings that harden into a refusal to suffer fools gladly--and that includes Abram for his obedient faith in his God, as well as this quixotic God himself. In alternating voices this aggrieved, easily dumbfounded God speaks to us in the first person, admitting to being astounded by the inventiveness of humans, and foxed by their desire to become us, when what he has shown them is his eternal I am. Abram's and Sarai's trials and tribulations are many and great: shame and exile, desert wanderings, and, most terrible of all, Sarai's barrenness, which she accepts as "the way of the world", but Abram is consumed by the loss of his begetting. God, meantime, stamps and stomps, and peppers his watchfulness with what he learns from his humans until "I had my fill of mankind and its seething, fleshy, unreliable ways" and so decides that he will become "ahead of the game". What he hadn't bargained for was love--and the consequent desolations of loss. Becoming all too human, he wants to be loved by Abram, and is consumed by jealousy and revenge towards Sarai. He plots against Sarai but her machinations are a match for his. She organises the birth of Ishmael by Hagar; he orchestrates the birth of Isaac, and incidentally renames them Abraham and Sarah and then he tops it with: "The story's mine, not hers, never was. The interruption is the narrative, the interrupter is the narrator". But one wonders how it is that Sarah knew the story all along, passed down through generations of women.
Audaciously inventive and humanely rich in its observation of emotional tumult, although just occasionally this slips over into "emotional literacy" speech rather than nuance, Jenny Diski has done her story proud. --Ruth Petrie
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'...this book delves into all kinds of byways infertility, obedience, autonomy in a relationship with wit and intelligence.' -- MARIE CLAIRE
'a hugely engaging and entertaining book' -- SUNDAY EXPRESS
'both intimate and ambitious - not only human, but also divine' -- DAILY TELEGRAPH