Friday, February 09, 2007

Noble Soul: The Life And Legend Of The Vilna Ger Tzedek Count Walenty Potocki

Joseph H. Prouser, Gorgias Press, 2005

This book offer an analysis of the numerous stories, legends, historical accounts, poetry, oral accounts, plays and apocryphal literature surrounding Avraham ben Avraham, known to history as the Vilna Ger Tzedek. He was a contemporary (and according to most accounts, a close disciple) of the Vilna Gaon, who was eventually appended by the Lithuanian authorities and burned at the stake for failing to renounce his new faith. He is buried close to the Gaon in Vilnius. Prouser offers an excellent presentation, which is well resourced, but disappointingly, is rather devoid of analysis. One may have hoped that he would try to uncover the ‘real Potocki’, yet does little work in that direction. Nonetheless, the book is interesting and readable. Some of the material is odd; Prouser provides us with some very strange, but fascinating, parallels to the story of the Ger Tzedek and finishes the book with a poor and ill-conceived discussion of conversion. He advocates proselytising in certain circumstances, based on self-serving reading of texts; one wonders if this appendix was the author’s real motive in writing the book. An interesting read.

Noble Soul