In 1913, a young woman was found murdered in the National Pencil Factory in Atlanta.The investigation focused on the Jewish manager of the factory, Leo Frank, who was subsequently forced to stand trial for the crime he didn't commit and railroaded to a life sentence in prison. Shortly after being incarcerated, he was abducted from his cell and lynched in front of a gleeful mob.
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For his second novel, playwright David Mamet chose as a subject the 1914 trial of Leo Frank, a Jew living in Georgia who was falsely accused of the rape and murder of a young girl at the factory he managed. Convicted on the perjurious testimony of the actual killer and several of his coworkers, Frank was later abducted from prison by a mob and lynched. "They covered his head, and they ripped his pants off and castrated him and hung him from the tree. A photographer took a picture showing the mob, one boy grinning at the camera, the body hanging, the legs covered by a blanket tied around the waist. The photo, reproduced as a postcard, was sold for many years in stores throughout the South."
The events are straightforward, and Mamet leaves no doubt over the course of the story as to the final outcome. But he does not portray the events so much as he probes the state of mind of Leo Frank, never relenting from the terse, stylized language familiar to fans of his plays. At the beginning of The Old Religion, despite his awareness of the growing anti-Semitism in the South (or perhaps because of it), Frank suppresses his heritage as much as possible. Even at a seder, "he pronounced the word kosher gingerly, as if to say, I don't disclaim that I have heard it, but I do not wish to say it freely, as to arrogate it to myself on the mere precedent of blood." But as the trial goes on, we are shown Frank's growing realization that, although he has embraced the American way of life, it will not embrace him in return.From the Publisher:
The Old Religion is a novel based on actual events: the 1914 trial of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory manager in Georgia falsely accused of raping and murdering a young white Southern girl. Convicted by the perjured testimony of the actual killer and the lies of other factory girls, the mild-mannered Frank hears himself portrayed as a leering sexual predator while outside the courthouse a frenzied demagogue whips the crowd into an anti-Semitic fury. Sentenced to life in prison, Frank is dragged from jail by an angry mob, castrated, and then Iynched. Frank's murder caused a national sensation, and a postcard of his corpse was sold for many years in stores throughout the South.
In The Old Religion, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Mamet turns these events into a work of profound originality and literary impact. Through mesmerizing short vignettes, we enter Frank's bewildered mind and follow his thoughts and feelings throughout the trial. With growing awe, Frank reflects upon his sacrificial role and even comes to accept it as the consequence of giving up his social isolation as a Jew in the pursuit of self-fulfillment beyond the bounds of his traditional community.
The story of a Iynching, then, The Old Religion is also the story of the victim's short-lived spiritual awakening. Frank's inner dialogue is powerfully compelling and is drawn with great precision and dramatic skill, artfully bridging the gap between two literary genres: the novel and theatrical drama. But in a sharp underlying polemic, it also develops the complex themes of Jewish insecurity in a Christian society, the conflicted psychology of assimilated Jews, and the misplaced faith of Jews in a system of laws that is intended to protect the weak and marginal, but that Mamet implies is just a mask for human cruelty and tribalism.
Harrowing, mysterious, psychologically acute, The Old Religion is a haunting and timely performance from a major American writer.
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Descripción Faber and Faber, 1999. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. book. Nº de ref. de la librería M0571197752