The Fire Gospel

I demolished The Fire Gospel by Michel Faber in 2 sittings. That’s possibly not much of an achievement since it’s just over 200 pages, but the 2nd reading was sitting up in bed in the middle of the night – and I literally could not stop. The hero Theo Griepenkerl is a bit of a knob, but somehow you follow along his adventure anyway. He’s visiting a museum in Iraq when a bomb goes off.  An ancient statue falls over and breaks open … to reveal papyrus scrolls in its belly. So far, so Dan Brown.

But this ain’t The Da Vinci Code. Theo hops off with his lucky find, and translates the scrolls – written in Aramaic by Malchus, who has a different perspective on the New Testament events. Like Theo, Malchus is a bit grotty and all too human. It’s him who has his ear cut off by the High Priest’s guards as Jesus is arrested.

The story follows Theo’s publication of this fifth gospel, named the Fire Gospel because of the reaction to it. Faith is lost, and found. In a neat section of imaginary Amazon feedback, a reader says:

 … before I read your book I was saved and steadfast in the  Lord. I thought Jesus was holding me in his arms like a baby. Now I am lost and alone. I can see that Jesus was just like me and nothing more, ie , a bunch of bones and guts covered in skin.

This is a visceral read – literally – blood, guts and the byproducts of humanity – and immensely powerful for it.