In this book, narrator/author Brian Josepher begins his faux, or false, history, by telling of the ancient historian Josephus. Josephus was a Jew who lived under Roman rule and challenged the authenticity of The Book of Mark, the first written of the Gospels that tells the story of Jesus. Josepher claims his inheritance as a descendant of Josephus. He moves into challenging the veracity of one of our own time’s “sacred” texts by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. Josepher focuses on the reliability of Night, Wiesel’s account of his time at Auschwitz, now a primary source on the Holocaust. At the same time, Josepher acknowledges his own limitations as storyteller.
A major theme is separating fact from fiction. By examining records and interviewing witnesses, Josepher tries to determine how much of Night happened and how much can be attributed to Wiesel’s masterful storytelling. Key figures and events in Night are questioned. An example is the character of Moche, who lived in Wiesel’s village of Sighet. Moche was the first of the villagers deported to a concentration camp. He escaped to return and warn the other townspeople. He is ignored and driven insane. Josepher attempts to determine if Moche existed or if he is pure literary device. Josepher also examines Wiesel’s life, at times questioning Wiesel’s very identity as a Holocaust survivor. Josepher’s research and the reliability of its informants are also questionable. Josepher refers frequently to his published work, The Gospel According to Elie Wiesel, for which he allegedly received death threats. An internet search reveals that this text apparently does not exist. Satan’s Synagogue itself is a work of fiction, specifically detective fiction, as the protagonist tries to piece together the truth about Wiesel.
Satan’s Synagogue is remarkable in its complexity, with Wiesel’s story told through the lens of Josepher’s story, both narratives unreliable and then looping back occasionally to the Biblical Josephus. On the one hand, the reader can marvel at the author’s mastery of storytelling skill; on the other, the technique threatens to lose the reader in separating fact from fiction in both stories, which overlap.
But that, in itself, goes to the theme of the work.
|Page Count||611 pages|
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