Antiquities is a tale that captures the shifting meanings of the past, and how our experience colors those meanings.
Lloyd Wilkinson Petrie, one of the seven elderly trustees of the now defunct (for thirty-four years) Temple Academy for Boys, is preparing a memoir of his days at the school, intertwined with the troubling distractions of present events. As he navigates, with faltering recall, between the subtle anti-Semitism that pervaded the school’s ethos and his fascination with his own family’s heritage—in particular, his illustrious cousin, the renowned archaeologist Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie—he reconstructs the passions of a childhood encounter with the oddly named Ben-Zion Elefantin, a mystifying older pupil who claims descent from Egypt’s Elephantine Island. From this seed emerges one of Cynthia Ozick’s most wondrous tales, touched by unsettling irony and the elusive flavor of a Kafka parable, and weaving, in her own distinctive voice, myth and mania, history and illusion.
“No matter what the topic, Ozick’s prose urges the breathless reader along, her love of language rolling excitedly through her sentences like an ocean wave. Ozick’s new novel, Antiquities, moves softly, with a tenderness and quiet intimacy. . . . Petrie is oddly, or at least unexpectedly, one of the richest and most personal of Ozick’s characters. The intimacy we feel is stirred partly by our inclusion in Petrie’s struggle to write his memoir. . . . Freedom and volatility and irresponsibility conferred and commanded by imagination—this is a wonderful description of Ozick’s own writing, to which should be added playful intelligence, comic wisdom, eloquent abundance, the knife edge of economy, the lightness of irony, the weight of history, and finally an overarching passion— no, let’s call it love—for words in all their delicacy and power.” —The New York Review of Books
“Beguiling. . . . Ozick is adept at capturing the vicissitudes of fading memory or flashes of lucid insight, and she unspools the story at a brisk pace. . . . A fascinating portrait of isolation, memory, and loss.” —Publishers Weekly
“A literary national treasure returns with a textured, gripping tale that peels back layers of antisemitism, with echoes of both A Separate Peace and the fiction of Isaac Bashevis Singer.”
—O the Oprah Magazine