Published by Riverhead Books of Penguin Putnam Inc, New York.
Hardcover edition: 1998; Trade paperback edition: 1999.
Laureate of Koret Jewish Book Award and The Kugel Library Prize in 1997.
Within months of its publication in Israel, The Name was heralded by critics and scholars alike, who compared its author to such writers as Dostoevsky, Gogol, Gide, and Beckett. The novel – a story of one woman's embrace of mystical Judaism and parallel descent into madness – was later awarded one of the country's most prestigious literary prizes, establishing Michal Govrin as a singular new voice in world literature.
The Kugel Literary Prize (in Hebrew, 1987)
The Koret Jewish Book Award (for the English translation, 1999)
The Name is the narrative of Amalia, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, named for her father's first wife, a concert pianist who perished in a Nazi death camp and whose sanctified memory haunts Amalia's youth. In a decisive, rebellious break from the culture of remembrance in which she was raised, Amalia grows into a wild, defiant young woman who attempts, unsuccessfully, to remake her life, to change her identitiy, to redefine herself as a woman stripped of history. Unable to escape her cultural legacy and plagued by troubling questions of faith, Amalia seeks refuge in an ultra-Orthodox women's seminary in Jerusalem and assumes yet another persona, that of the ba'alat tshuva – the penitent. As Amalia struggles with the weight of remembrance, she must also make peace with the God who presides over a wounded world. Before long she is drawn to a charismatic rabbi who preaches a fiery heterodoxy. Amalia moves into an isolated apartment on the fringe of Jerusalem and devotes herself to rituals of purification and redemption that are to culminate in a heroic, ultimate act of atonement.
In Govrin's hands, the city of Jerusalem becomes a luminous, imposing character in the story – an entity whose complex religious, political and social tensions mirror Amalia's confused and delusional state of mind. Govrin's style and dexterity are virtuosic, ranging from the liturgical to the confessional, from the erotic to the sublime, and marking this as a literary debut of great moment.
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"Govrin has done something many have tried but could not accomplish: writing about a religious experience in an authentic religious language, a full religious experience, without pretension and sentimentality, with all its joy and sorrow."
– Aharon Appelfeld
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"As The Name progresses, its boxes within boxes opening in succession to reach the heart of things, there are stunning moments of loss and betrayal, of hearts offered and unthinkingly rejected, never to be offered again… This is more than a story of the continuing toll of the Holocaust. It's more broadly about the human heart, which, once injured, may never recover."
– The Providence Journal
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"The Name is a shocker. It shows religious and secular culture in a duel so passionate and imaginative that it becomes impossible to tell one from the other. Michal Govrin throws back the curtain on Kabbalah and mysticism to disclose the millennial longing of Judeo-Christian history for the Intimate Oneness. She has the learning to open our minds and the narrative skills to leave us thirsting for her story. There has never been a Jewish author like Govrin, in any language, although Isaac Bashevis Singer is bound to be applauding somewhere at this very moment."
– David Rosenberg, poet, translator and coauthor of The Book of J
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"A fascinating story of Jewish mysticism and erotic intensity."
– Grace Shulman