Amidst the debris of the collapsed Twin Towers, a manuscript is found and retrieved and brought to a man's home by a member of the search team. His wife begins to thumb through the papers and realizes that the story is about a Jew-a very unique Jew. The story unfolds...
Such is the intriguing premise behind The Immortal: A Tale of the Wandering Jew (ISBN: 0-9763814-0-0), Book I of the Trilogy, Joseph's Odyssey by teacher, historian, and author Sy Polsky.
The overall trilogy bears the name Joseph's Odyssey, but although the story is continuous, it has been divided into three separate novels: Book I - The Immortal, Book II - Jehovah's Anvil, and Book III - I Will Not Die.
Joseph's Odyssey, in general, and The Immortal, in particular, is a tale of a physician/soldier who deserts his comrades in old Judea before they are about to suffer annihilation and martyrdom at the hands of a large Roman force on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av in the year 135 on the modern calendar. After Joseph bar Judah deserts the doomed fortress of Betar, he is fatally wounded and left for dead, then found by a female necromancer and is offered an unusual choice, a choice between being allowed to die from his injuries or that of surviving and remaining thirty-five years old in perpetuity.
Joseph accepts the second option but there are two caveats-Joseph must join the people he had abandoned as they go into their long exile where he will share their pain and humiliation as a stateless, wandering people. Joseph is also warned that he will become a pathetic figure because for him, personally, the Ninth of Av will repeatedly become an especially tragic day in the years to come.
The novel is both a tender story of a man who seeks a measure of surcease and fulfillment, struggles to find a satisfying relationship with the God whom he perceives to be perpetually vengeful, and of a man who cyclically spurns, then renews this relationship, and, as he survives century after century of tribulation and joy, he forges relationships with many of his contemporaries, among them several wives who continually help him redefine his own identity and perspective on the value of life.
Through pain, tragedy, and personal loss, and through the love of these unique women, Joseph slowly learns to cherish his people, venerate their traditions, and treasure and yearn for the Promised Land which he abandoned in his "youth." Although he continues to value remaining alive, Joseph learns that all too often living without dignity can be far worse than dying on behalf of a noble end.
All three parts of the trilogy of Joseph's Odyssey form a historical saga which was partly inspired by the author's having traveled extensively abroad, his background as a teacher of history, geography, and English, and by having lived for several decades in both the English-speaking world and Israel.
The novels span many borders, and approximately eighteen hundred years, during which the central character of the story, the hero (sometimes a reluctant one) lives through, and often participates in, cataclysmic events in history which the reader must also experience, for as Joseph journeys through history, time, and vast geographic expanses, he and the reader come face-to-face with many of the characters who shaped the destiny of both the Jewish people and of mankind.
This is a novel which contends with several questions with which mankind has wrestled for ages: How, for example, can a merciful and all-powerful God permit evil and suffering to triumph repeatedly in our world? Does the Jew really have a special mission to fulfill among the nations, and why has he been so hated and resented since time immemorial? And, finally, would extreme longevity and the cumulative experiences of eighteen centuries make a man wiser, or simply more cautious?
Joseph's Odyssey will hold the interest of a wide audience, for it stands apart from other "immortality" stories in several aspects. To begin with, this is not the story of a family dynasty spanning many generations. In this tale, nineteen dramatic centuries are experienced by one man. As Joseph, for example, experiences once friendly neighbors turning viciously upon his people during the rise of Nazism, he and only he can view the unfolding tragedy with the perspective of someone who had gone through similar horrors, many times before, albeit in different centuries and in different lands.