The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Gustav Meyrink probably began work on The Golem in 1906. Almost seven years later, Meyrink and a friend plotted the characters and action diagrammatically and eliminated about half the material. The novel was published serially in the periodical Die weissen Blätter in 1913 and 1914.

Narrated in the first person, the novel opens with a nightmare. The dreamer is identified as Athanasius Pernath, a gem engraver and restorer of old manuscripts who lives in the Prague ghetto. Pernath is unable to recall his early life because of an amnesia hypnotically induced during therapy for a breakdown. Amnesia goads him to seek redemptive enlightenment. His quest begins when he agrees to repair an unusual old book for an even more unusual stranger, later revealed as the golem. Pernath begins seeing underlying connections between things, as confirmed in dreams, visions, and conversations with Hillel, a saintly cabalist. Pernath finds himself increasingly attracted to Hillels equally spiritual daughter, Miriam.

A subplot involves an affair taking place in a room next to Pernaths. Pernath becomes infatuated with the woman in the affair, a flirtatious aristocrat named Angelina, and endeavors to preserve her secret. In another subplot, a tubercular, impoverished medical student, Charousek, plots revenge against his natural father, the conniving junk dealer Aaron Wasserstrum. The subplots interrelate, as Wasserstrum schemes to reveal Angelinas...

(The entire section is 561 words.)