Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Samuel Klayman is in his Brooklyn bedroom one night in 1939 when his mother introduces him to his cousin, Josef Kavalier, newly arrived from Prague, who will be staying with them, having escaped Europe and the Nazis. Samuel is initially suspicious of Josef, but agrees to try to help him obtain employment at the company where he works, Empire Novelties.
The son of two Jewish doctors, Josef had become interested in the art of escape and studied with Bernard Kornblum, a famous escape artist. To safeguard him, Josef’s parents arranged to send him out of the country, but he was thrown off the train because of a change in regulations. In desperation, he begged Kornblum to help him flee. Kornblum had already contracted to arrange the shipment to Vilna of Rabbi Loew’s golem (a giant clay man said to come to life to protect Jews) in order to protect it, and he agreed to secrete Josef with the golem, allowing him to escape.
The morning after Josef’s arrival, Samuel awakes to find him drawing on a comic panel and is very impressed by his work. Josef reveals that he studied for two years at Prague’s Academy of Fine Arts. Samuel asks Josef to draw a portfolio to show his employer, Sheldon Anapol. The cousins meet with Anapol and propose that they create a new hero similar to Superman. Anapol agrees to entertain the idea if they can come up with a good sample comic. They leave to begin work and Samuel reminisces about his father, the “Mighty...
(The entire section is 1443 words.)
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Part I: The Escape Artist
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay begins in October 1939. Josef Kavalier has just arrived in New York City after escaping Nazi-occupied Prague. He hopes that his cousin Sammy Klayman can help him find a job because he needs money to free his family.
In trying to leave Czechoslovakia, Josef is sent back to Prague on a paperwork technicality. Too ashamed to face his family, he asks his former mentor Bernhard Kornblum for help. Kornblum agrees so long as Josef will go by way of Lithuania.
It is 1935 and fourteen-year-old Josef attempts a dangerous escape feat that results in his near drowning and that of his brother Thomas. They are saved by Kornblum. Thereafter, Kornblum ceases his escape artist instruction of Josef.
Kornblum and Josef find where the Golem has been hidden and prepare it for travel disguised as the corpse of a giant. Josef smuggles himself inside the casket. Once in Lithuania, he secures papers to get him to San Francisco.
Part II: A Couple of Boy Geniuses
Sammy and Josef pick grown-up, American names: Sam Clay and Joe Kavalier. Inspired by Joe’s artistic skill, Sammy pitches a comic book idea to his boss Sheldon Anapol, who reluctantly accepts it. They have to develop a superhero character and a twelve-page story in three...
(The entire section is 3017 words.)