Behold the Man

Michael Moorcock
Behold the Man Cover

Behold the Man


Karl Glognauer is the son of a Christian father and Jewish mother who emigrated from Europe to England in the 1930's. Karl was born in 1940, experienced the London blitz as a infant, and sent to schools and Christian church camps as a child. He is drawn to religion, but in intense and somewhat disturbing ways. He is willing to play Christ on the playground of his grammar school, but has to fake passing out when hanging crucified from the playground fence becomes too uncomfortable. He develops a early, fetishistic obsession with the look of a silver cross hanging in the adolescent cleavage of his female schoolmates. There is fumbling schoolboy sex and a series of girlfriends, and always a religious craving that takes him on a journey through the spiritual fads of the 1960's. Although he has a long-term relationship with a no-nonsense anthropologist , he works in a spiritualist bookstore that hosts a weekly Jungian discussion group. The Jungians are more interested in their personal obsessions with UFOs, Lemurians, and our possible links to Saturn. One member, however, is an aristocratic scientist, currently tossed from the scientific community for his far out theories. When Karl visits this man's country estate he learns that his fellow seeker has built a time machine.

Behold the Man opens with Karl's crashing landing in Judea in AD 28. The time machine is beyond repair and he is stuck. Fortunately he is taken in a by a group of Essenes led by John the Baptist. Since Karl's spiritual studies have included learning Aramaic, he can communicate with his new friends, although is accent is so weird they assume he is Egyptian. Karl's goal it to witness the crucifixion of Christ, to answer once and for all his questions about the meaning of the messiah.

This is point in the review where I would seem to wandering into spoiler territory, but really from the title of the novel on it is fairly obvious what is going to happen. Moorcock's accomplishment lies is treating Karl's experience in both the first and the twentieth century with the same clear-headed narrative style that never slips in to satire and always respects his main character's experience, questing nature, and growing awareness of the role he has to play.