The Deracinated Jews of Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fantasy

Set in a fictional analogue of 16th-century Italy (on a planet with two moons), the Canadian novelist Guy Gavriel Kay’s All the Seas of the World gives much attention to religion. Or at least, it gives much attention to the relations among members of three predominant faiths, which correspond to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—except that the only substantive difference is which astronomical bodies the adherents revere. Michael Weingrad writes in his review:

Rather than religious civilizations engaged with fundamental human questions through theology and philosophy, mysticism and ethics, devotion and practice, we get a caricature of religion as a kind of team sport, where your mascot (sun, stars, or moon) determines whom you cheer for. There is nothing necessarily wrong with a fantasy writer imagining a world in which religions are silly contrivances. Yet Kay seems to want to engage real history, while this conceit makes the past into something merely unfortunate.

So extreme is this indifference to the substance of religious civilization that it extends even to the overtly supernatural elements in the novel. In two instances (that turn out to be largely unimportant to the plot), Kay’s characters encounter supernatural phenomena. . . . But neither phenomenon is referred by any character to their religious traditions; it’s just stuff that happens. When [the “Christian” heroine] Lenia says that she and [the Kindath, i.e., Jewish] Rafel don’t believe in miracles, she really means it—even when they happen to her

But Rafel’s Jewishness—Kindathness—most resembles a contemporary North American Jewish ethnic identity formed by a measure of family loyalty and guilt, and a degree of historical awareness, but nothing so thick as practice, belief, community. Rafel lives on the margins of Kindath community, but so do most all of Kay’s Kindath characters in these novels, at least in terms of culture and mentality.

Read more at Investigations and Fantasies

More about: Fantasy, Israeli literature, Religion


Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University