Dr. Burton Visotzky will discuss his new book, A Delightful Compendium of Consolation: A Fabulous Tale of Romance, Adventure and Faith in the Medieval Mediterranean (Ben Yehuda Press, March 2008), at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, March 31 at The Jewish Theological Seminary, 3080 Broadway (at 122nd Street), New York City.
A professor of rabbinic literature whose active role in Jewish-Christian-Muslim dialogue has taken him to Rome, Cairo, and Qatar, Dr. Visotzky is Nathan and Janet Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies at JTS.
Sponsored by The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary, the event is part of a series of book talks by JTS faculty moderated by Dr. David Kraemer, Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian and professor of Talmud and Rabbinics. The final program of the year, “Moritz Steinschneider, Father of Modern Jewish Bibliography,” will take place on April 7.
The mixing of fact and fiction and the interplay of Jewish and Muslim culture are at the heart of the novel. The year is 1031. Karimah, a beautiful, headstrong Jewish nineteen-year-old, runs away with her Muslim boyfriend, leaving her family behind in Egypt. In his grief, her father, Dunash, turns to Rabbi Nissim, who writes A Delightful Compendium of Consolation, a series of rabbinical tales to comfort his friend. At the same time, Karimah writes her own letters, interspersed with stories she appropriates from the Arabian Nights, to her brother.
Masterfully blending historical fact—Rabbenu Nissim was an actual religious figure of the eleventh century whose stories of consolation were discovered in the Cairo Genizah, one of the most important historical discoveries of all time—with the fantastic fictional tales crafted by Karimah, Dr. Visotzky creates an impassioned portrayal of a time when Jews and Muslims lived together in reasonable harmony.
In addition to his work at JTS, with Bill Moyers, Dr. Visotzky developed ten hours of television for PBS for the 1996 series, Genesis: A Living Conversation. He was also a consultant to Jeffrey Katzenberg of DreamWorks for the 1998 film Prince of Egypt. He has been a visiting scholar at Oxford University, the University of Cambridge, Union Theological Seminary, the Russian State University of the Humanities in Moscow, Princeton University, and most recently at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. The author of eight other books, his articles and reviews have been published in America, Europe, and Israel.
Autographed copies of the book will be available for purchase. The talk is open to the community at no charge; reservations are required. For further information and to RSVP, please contact Hector Guzman at (212) 678-8075.