The Seventh Beggar

“Pearl Abraham is a dazzling novelist, and this is about as riveting and provocative as a writer can get.”
— Vital Source, Milwaukee

1Pearl Abraham’s first novel, The Romance Reader, was hailed as covering “uncharted territory” (Los Angeles Times Book Review), “deftly lift[ing] the opaque curtain from the closed Hasidic world” (New York Times Book Review). Now Abraham returns to that world in an ambitious and dazzling work centered on the writings of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, the legendary nineteenth-century Chasidic master-kabbalist, storyteller, and charismatic. A novel about the possibilities-and perils-of storytelling and creation, The Seventh Beggar  takes us from the contemporary life of a Hasidic teenager to Nachman’s past world of lost writings and courtly ritual, from a religious community in upstate New York to the scientific halls of M.I.T., from New York to Palestine to the Ukraine, all the while breaking literary conventions and boundaries. Nachman’s famously unfinished Tale of the Seven Beggars  serves as the inspiration for Pearl Abraham’s own bold and innovative story about the glories and pitfalls of originality, and is included in full within her novel, in a translation from the Yiddish and Hebrew by Arnold Band.

In its connections between myth and modern life, its mingling of genres, its playful conflations of dream life and reality, The Seventh Beggar breaks new literary ground. But perhaps the novel’s greatest power lies in Abraham’s own remarkable gift for storytelling, and for creating characters who will stay with the reader long after its pages are closed: Joel, a young man whose interest in Nachman turns to obsession and an attempt to create a golem; Ada, his feisty sister, who creates dress patterns for Chasidic women altered from those of famous designers; and JakobJoel, a brilliant student of robotics who is interested in yet another type of creation. A tour de force, The Seventh Beggar upends conventions, thwarts expectations, and yet all the while compels us with its memorable characters, its narrative momentum, and its creation of a familiar yet dreamlike landscape, in which imagination simultaneously triumphs and destroys.

The book is a finalist for the 2006 Koret Award in Fiction, along with David Grossman’s Her Body Knows and Francine Prose’s A Changed Man.

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“Pearl Abraham’s The Seventh Beggar is an amazingly poignant and aesthetically accurate completion of the most enigmatic of Nachman of Bratslav’s tales. Rabbi Nachman listened for God’s voice in the void and was frighteningly honest as to how difficult it was to apprehend redemption. By a kind of miracle of sympathetic imagination, Pearl Abraham has been able to revivify what may be the most spiritually disturbing of all Hasidic tales.”
—Harold Bloom

“An astonishingly original novel about adolescence, family, golems, God, sex, spirituality, courage, and the nature of storytelling, The Seventh Beggar is Pearl Abraham’s bravest and best novel.”
—Brian Morton, author of A Window Across the River and The Dylanist

“Pearl Abraham’s remarkable new novel opens with a set of keys accidentally dropped down a storm sewer, the quest for which takes the reader into a narrative wonderland that rivals Alice’s adventures down the rabbit hole. At a burial site in the Ukraine, in a Chasidic community upstate New York, at a bluegrass festival, and at a computer lab at M.I.T., stories are created and recreated and melded, ending in a surrealistic tour de force. What makes The Seventh Beggar such a delightful read is the sheer bravura and originality of its storytelling. In this dialectic between past and present, tradition and modernism, religion and science, who we were and what we are becoming, Abraham proves on so many levels that it is the human imagination that will be our salvation.”
— Patricia Chao, author of Monkey King

“Pearl Abraham’s The Seventh Beggar is a tour-de-force. Ranging freely between past and present, comic and tragic, reverence and transgression, and endowed with a special magic all its own, it conjures forth a distinctive, unforgettable imaginative terrain.”
— Jonathan Freedman, author of The Temple of Culture

“Pearl Abraham’s The Seventh Beggar is a haunted book. In it the modern world is haunted by the mythic past, the barren material landscape by the holy, technology by the ghost of magic. It is a brave book that defies the boundaries of possibility, both in experience and in the form of the novel itself; and it’s a mad spiritual adventure that initiates its reader into secret signs and wonders, after which the realm of the ordinary will never look quite the same.”
— Steve Stern, author of Wedding Jester

“With her stories of Hasidic life and her grasp of its mystical traditions of numerology, golems and the supernatural, Ms. Abraham has been compared to Cynthia Ozick and Isaac Bashevis Singer.”
— New York Times

“The pursuit of the pure soul was a matter of asking the right questions rather than of memorizing the right answers. That, in essence, is what each of Nachman’s stories illustrate; and that is also what Abraham, to her credit, points us toward in this absolutely brilliant novel.”
— Sanford Pinsker,

“This is a tale awash in surrealism, fostering a dreamlike quality throughout the narrative that is as fascinating as it is perplexing.”
— LA Times

“Those looking for successors to I.B. Singer should read Abraham’s novel…[it] has both heart and brain, penetrating the separateness of Hasidic life while respecting its mysteries.”
— Publisher’s Weekly

“Abraham has written an inventive novel of ideas, probing the nature of storytelling and creation. “
— The Jewish Week

“Skillfully conceived, and often dizzying when you can’t quite recall how many levels of story you are inside.”
— Boston Globe

“It is a dizzying hall of mirrors in which echoing images recede into infinity. All this might sound ponderously postmodern, except that “The Seventh Beggar” is genuinely compelling…with scattered allusions to Frankenstein, Pinocchio and the Golem myth, the novel reminds us that fiction can be both a destructive monstrosity and an instrument for tikkun olam, or healing the world.”
— The Forward

“Stories and symbols intersect in unexpected places in Pearl Abraham’s intricate and complex third novel, “The Seventh Beggar,” a vivid meditation on the nature of creation.”
— LA Jewish Journal

“Complex moments…replete with encounters between tradition, modernity, spirituality and sexuality—moving across gender and time—are what make Pearl Abraham’s latest novel, The Seventh Beggar, such an immense achievement. It is a Jewish American novel that has ventured beyond the usual confines of the genre. With her latest book, Abraham joins an accomplished list of contemporary writers, such as Salman Rushdie and Julian Barnes, working in a postmodernist narrative style.”
— Jerusalem Post

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