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The Fire Gospel Hardcover – 6 Nov 2008

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate; 1st edition (6 Nov. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847672787
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847672780
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 769,853 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'A pacy book-world satire.' -- Naomi West, Harper's Bazaar

A pacy book-world satire. -- Naomi West, Harper's Bazaar

Definitely proof that one of our most entertaining and original authors has risen again. -- Claire Sawers, The List

Sharply satirical. -- Tom Gatti, The Times

The Da Vinci Code with gags - and bile. -- Ian Sansom, Guardian


A pacy book-world satire.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Bevan TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 20 Dec. 2008
Format: Hardcover
A wildly enjoyable re-telling of the Prometheus myth in a modern setting. The narrator, unlovely Canadian academic Theo Greipenkerl, finds a collection of miraculously preserved scrolls, revealed when an Iraqi museum he is visiting is bombed during the chaos that ensues following the American invasion in 2003. The scrolls contain a fifth gospel (in Aramaic), written by Malchus, servant of the high priest whose ear was supposedly struck off by one of the disciples at the time of Jesus' arrest. But Malchus' picture of Jesus is quite different from those of the other four evangelists, and in publishing it, Greipenkerl unleashes a chain of uncontrollable, and in many ways unsurprising, events. Alongside fortune and the attentions of the media (which rapidly pale) come less welcome consequences, such as the dubious accolades of Amazon reviewers (very funny) and kidnapping at the hands of religious fanatics.

Yes, as some broadsheet newspaper reviewers have observed, the plot has some holes in it. But the work is admirably pacy, and a very quick read. All in all, it's a wonderfully irony-laden modern take on the myth, with some real laugh-out-loud moments among the chuckles. And there's enough resonances from the original, spliced into the thoroughly modern setting, to make this a thoughtful and satisfying retelling.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By D. Harris TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 21 Nov. 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a little nervous about writing this review - one of the funniest passages in "The Fire Gospel" is when Theo Griepenkerl, first time author on a tour of the US, spends a sleepless night looking up his Amazon reviews. Some are really dotty: all read as uncomfortably authentic. Hmmm.

Griepenkerl has been launched to celebrity by - er - liberating the papyri containing the lost letters of Malchus, eyewitness to the Crucifixion and translating them from the original Aramaic into English. As a result, he becomes the focus of the hopes and (especially) fears of a range of believers and unbelievers. While the book's success brings him the fame and money he wanted, all does not really go well.

Theo's progress is interleaved with extracts from Malchus's account, which in itself an inventive and unusual take on the Passion story. Inevitably, perhaps, since this is part of a series retelling myths, the two are intermingled and reflect each other. (Or so I read it. I now see from the "official" review above that this is actually meant to be a modern take on the myth of Prometheus. Really? To me it looks much, much more as though Faber has Theo undergoing his own passion, with many of the details matching - both those in the real Gospels and in the "gospel" of Malchus. And isn't the very name Theo itself rather a thundering giveaway?)

I enjoyed this immensely - be warned, it isn't a long book, but Michel Faber is an expert at (especially) short stories and short novels. I think this is one of his best so far.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Federhirn on 18 July 2010
Format: Paperback
Fire Gospel is apparently a retelling of Prometheus. Since I am not 100% familiar with that myth, I'll give an overview of the plot here. (I know Prometheus stole fire from the gods and got punished... I tend to think he's the one whose liver is getting pecked out again and again on a mountain somewhere, but I am not entirely confident in my memories)

So, Theo, a Canadian, somewhat whingy archeologist, finds himself in Iraq trying to convince the local museums to give up their treasures and hand them over to Canadian museums for "protection", in the aftermath of the war and the looting. A bomb explodes, and a statue falls apart, and Theo discovers some scrolls in Aramaic, which, as he is one of the best translators of Aramaic in the world, he feels entitled to steal in the aftermath of the explosion, smuggle to America, and translate. It turns out they were written by a deciphel of Jesus Christ, before any of the four canonic gospels...

This is a fairly short book. Theo is not a very likeable guy. His girlfriend is even less likeable. Other characters make single, brief appearances - due to the short length of the book, virtually no character has more than one scene with Theo. The overall effect is that the reader is stuck with a bit of an annoying, egocentric git.

On the bright side, the writing is excellent and witty. A single throwaway comment (about stewardesses performing symbolic safety dances) stuck especially in my mind - partially because I was reading the book in an airport and a plane, and watching the very thing the writer was writing about - but also because it was richly observational and, in my opinion, funny. While the story may be a bit unrealistic, and the characters a bit annoying, the writing was excellent throughout, and the characters always seemed believable.

On the whole, a rewarding, if brief read - and I just wished there had been a bit more of it. It was too short, and too rushed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By bennyben80 on 13 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback
Since reading Under The Skin a couple of years ago, I've loved Michel Faber. That book was one of the most shocking, unexpected and harrowing books I'd read for a long time - and still is - so I'm always excited at the prospect of reading a new Faber.

The The Fire Gospel is a slight book, just a couple of hundred pages, unlike the epic and excellent The Crimson Petal and The White , but he crams in some pretty big ideas, a bit of humour and a pretty damning commentary on 21st century religion.

The book opens with academic Theo Griepenkerl, an expert in ancient Aramaic, in Iraq, exploiting the chaos of the Iraqi occupation and trying to gather up as many antiquities as he can for his Canadian Museum employer.

After an explosion knocks our overweight, middle aged and slightly bumbling Theo to the ground, a statue is smashed, and Theo finds a roll of papyrus that was sealed inside. He hides them away and returns to Canada, the scrolls burning a hole in his briefcase, where he sets about translating them. As he translates, he realises he has found the memoirs of one of Jesus' contemporaries, a foul mouthed and at times incoherent man called Malchus.

The more he translates, the more he is convinced he is sitting on a gold mine, believing his translation could be a publishing phenomenon, despite being only 30 pages long. A new gospel, written at the time of Jesus' death, not some 40-60 years after his crucifixion. Theo rubs his hands with glee and set about writing the book. His determination to make money blinkers him to the potential consequences such a book could have on the world. But Theo ploughs on regardless.
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