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BOOK REVIEW - MICHAEL MOORCOCK – BEHOLD THE MAN. 1966 Orion Books. 

 

One of the most provocative, dangerous and controversial of all science fiction novellas, A time traveller decides to head back in time to witness the crucifixion of Jesus and the birth of Christianity. He arrives in Nazareth, and though certain that he is in the correct time period, he cannot find anyone who has ever heard of Jesus or his teachings. Everything that he believes in seems to stand for nothing. Eventually he hears that a couple called Mary and Joseph do have a son of that name. He follows directions and meets the couple that are raising a drooling helpless mentally retarded figure that answers to the name Jesus in a quiet back street. It is clear to the time traveler that the figure he has seen could never possibly do anything attributed to the Jesus so acclaimed in the scriptures. As a result, the time traveler takes it on himself to adapt the persona of Jesus and to get himself arrested and crucified in his name and in his place in order to give people something to believe in. The story is a strange atheistic allegory, in which a religion is founded on nothing – the traveler seems to believe that false delusional hope is better than giving people no hope at all. Moorcock avoids proselytizing on how he feels about Christian beliefs, or judging the actions of the time traveler in any way. There is no speculation on whether a world without Christianity might be better off or worse off. Moorcock avoids thinking about how the traveler could save the world from the ravages of the Spanish Inquisition or other persecutions. The focus is squarely on the issue of faith, or lack of faith. There is not even a reflection on the dangers of meddling with time. The traveler puts history on course to what we come now to expect of it. His Martyrdom is never explained away. We just see him do what he does. Many Christian’s fundamentalists were outraged, but the story is a powerful and nicely written one nevertheless.  http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/m/michael-moorcock/

 

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