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Blackstone Audio
presents a
Hollywood Theater of the Ear
production

NARRATOR
THE STRANGER
THE OLD WOMAN

 Kristoffer Tabori
 Yuri Rasovsky
 Lorna Raver

produced and directed
by

Yuri Rasovsky

translated
by

Naomi Walford

co-produced
by

John Baker

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In this powerful, poetic and moving parable, the Wandering Jew of medieval Christian legend journeys to Delphi to consult the famed oracle of the pagans. He is turned away, but not before learning that one of the most adept of the old priestesses, or sibyls, lives in disgrace in the mountains above the Temple. In her rude goat-hut he seeks the meaning of his disastrous brush with the son of God. She reveals that she, too, has been touched by the son of a god, a very different son, not quite human, born of her own body. He dwells with her as a constant reminder of the betrayal of her mystical (and erotic) union with the divine, her punishment, and -- perhaps -- her redemption.


"Pär Lagerkvist has written another mythic tale somewhat after the pattern and dimension of Barabbas, but one in which spare narrative style rises to a heightened, surging lyricism."

Richard B. Vowles, Saturday Review


This is an amazing historical novel. Not only does it evoke a sense of mystery in life and the sacred in late antiquity, but it turns an utterly bizarre plot into something totally believable. The result is a profound and inspiring meditation on life. I felt wonder, repulsion, and a desire to learn more - there is nothing more that a reader could hope for in an historical novel.

The plot revolves around a banished sybil, who has lived in seclusion for so many years with her retarded son that she has become a legend in the towns nearby. An ordinary man condemned to immortality seeks her out, and they recount to each other their life stories. The reader feels what it was like to live then, how religious beliefs shaped their lives and world view, and how in that seminal era the gods may indeed have erred. I was totally awestruck at the way that it made me feel.

Highest recommendation.

— Robert Crawford @ Amazon.com


The Sibyl of Delphi

Delphi, located near the foot of the south slope of Mt. Parnassus,  was the seat of the Delphic oracle, the most famous and most powerful of ancient Greece. It was the preeminent shrine of Apollo. The oracle was housed in the great temple to Apollo, first built in the 6th cent. B.C. (it was destroyed and rebuilt at least twice). The oracular messages were spoken by a priestess seated on a golden tripod, who uttered sounds in a frenzied trance. The inspired trance was said by the ancient Greeks to be induced by vapors from beneath the temple's floor; these may have been ethylene or other petrochemical fumes rising through faults that ran beneath the temple. The priestess's utterances were interpreted to the questioner by a priest, who usually spoke in verse.  Persons seeking the help of the oracle brought rich gifts, and the shrine grew very wealthy. The prestige and influence of the Delphic oracle prevailed for centuries through all of the ancient Mediterranian, from prehistoric times into the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D.


Delphi in its hayday, with the commanding Temple of Apollo center

The Wandering Jew

Summarized in brief, the legend goes as follows: As Jesus was bearing His cross up the Via Dolorosa, He sat Himself down to recover His breath on a bench that was in front of a Jewish shoemaker’s house, one called Ahasuerus. The said shoemaker cried out insults (he even hit Him, according to some versions) and drove Him away. Jesus doomed Ahasuerus to wander the length and breadth of the earth and not find his place, his peace, or even his death, anywhere before the Day of Judgment. The motif ”immortality as doom” can be traced back to an evangelical text: ”Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew, 16: 28). Nevertheless, the explicit legend of the ”Wandering Jew” is to be found in none of the Gospels, be they canonical or apocryphal. Its origins are much more recent, in the European Middle Ages, when it was probably intended to encase a metaphorical justification of the Jewish Diaspora from a Christian standpoint. (Andrei Oişteanu)

The Author

The author of some 35 books, Pär Fabian Lagerkvist (1891-1974) was celebrated in his time for his versatility as a poet, dramatist, essayist and novelist. He was elected to the Swedish Academy in 1940 and in 1951 was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. His novel Barrabas wasl filmed in 1961 with Anthony Quinn in the lead and a screenplay by poet Christopher Fry.

"On each page of Pär Lagerkvist's work are words and ideas which, in their profound and fearful tenderness, carry at the very heart of their purity a message of terror. Their origin is in a simple, rustic life, laborious and frugal of words. But these words, these thoughts, handled by a master, have been placed at the service of other designs and have been given a greater purpose, that of raising to the level of art an interpretation of the time, the world, and man's eternal condition."

— Anders Österling
permanent secretary
The Swedish Academy
1951 Nobel Prize presentation speech


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