Length: 256 pages
About: Version of Jesus's 40 days in the wilderness
Style: 3rd person
Where: Judean desert
When: 2000 years ago
Quarantine is Jim Crace's imaginative and powerful retelling of Christ's fabled 40-day fast in the desert. In Crace's account, Jesus travels to a cluster of arid caves where he crosses
paths with a small group of exiles who are on a pilgrimage to find redemption. One wealthy and manipulative quarantiner recognizes characteristics in Christ that he believes are divine. Evoking the
strangeness and beauty of the desert landscape, Crace provocatively interprets one of our most important stories.
He was a traveller called Jesus, from the cooler farming valleys in the north, a Galilean, and not one used to deprivation of this kind. He'd spent the night in straw, a shepherd's paying guest,
and that morning left his bag, his water skin, his sandals and his stick where he'd slept. His quarantine would be achieved without the comforts and temptations of clothing food and water. He'd put
his trust in God as young men do.
Whatever the case, and whatever one's misgivings about the book's rhythms or its interpretation of Jesus, the fact remains that Crace has carried off a daunting task with an artistry and
imaginative power that many others – one thinks particularly of Norman Mailer, author of last year's hollow Gospel According to the Son – might well envy.
Click here for full review
Washington Post, Bruce Bawer, 3rd May 1998
Not so good:
The wilderness setting of this story is rendered in obsessive detail: the geography and geology of the area, its birds and animals, insects and plants, its folk beliefs and superstitions. As often
with Crace, there are words one needs to look up in a dictionary, and in fact there are some I can't find in any of mine. It doesn't matter; this, for the moment, is his world or continent, and this
is its language. The effect is of an almost hallucinatory concentration.
For full review click here
New York Times, Frank Kemode, 12 April 1998
About the author
born 1 March 1946 at Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire, and grew up at the far northern point of Greater London, close to Enfield, where Crace attended Enfield Grammar School. He studied for a degree at
the Birmingham College of Commerce (now part of Birmingham City University), where he was enrolled as an external student of the University of London. While at university, Crace edited and
contributed to the Birmingham Sun, the newspaper of the Guild of Students, University of Aston. He was awarded an external Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of London in
Immediately after graduating from university, Crace joined the Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) and was sent to Khartoum, Sudan, where he assisted writing and producing educational programs for
Sudanese Educational Television. Crace traveled through Africa and briefly taught at a village school called Kgosi Kgari Sechele Secondary School in Molepolole, Botswana. Crace’s exposure to other
cultures while living abroad in Africa and later while traveling through North and Central America also inspired his later writings.
Two years later he returned to the UK, and worked with the BBC, writing educational programmes and then worked as a freelance journalist for papers including the Sunday Times.