The Company of Words
A novel about the death of a man and the ways of God.
Questions Raised by the Book
Deborah Miller finds words to express the inexplicable. She carries us on a journey to a time beyond time, into the face of death and shows what life might look like in a world we cannot know.
'The Company of Words is a poetic and learned invocation of a man's confrontation with his own death which forces us to consider the way we all live.' (Mark Raphael Baker, author of The Fiftieth Gate)
The Company of Words is a journey into death, tracking the final days of a life into the mystery of its last indefinite momenta moment which stands forever outside the passage of time.
Daniel, the dying one, is guided by his companion, the Hebrew prophet Isaiah, through the soul of darkness into the core of time, to a place of revelation that remains shrouded and hidden from all but the dying, the prophetic, and the insane.
As his flesh deteriorates, Daniel burrows deep into his end of days, shedding the husks of self that often warp and obscure the vision of the living.
He retreats from life, leaving Lena, his frightened wife; Veda, widow of his long-dead brother; Dan, the scientist, bigamist and best friend; Sister Catherine the saintly hospice nurse; Dr. Stern the timid GP.; the oratorical rabbi; the damaged children; the hungry lovers; the gossipy friends; and sinks though the event horizon of his death, to be drawn into the breath that is the company of words, and the source of all creation.
'A powerful piece of writing.' (Phillip Adams)
'A distinctive piece of prose, a novella whose predominant theme is the dying and death of the physical wreck of a man, yet whose pages resonate with life.' (Ruth Boltman, The Australian Jewish News)
About the Author
- Can there be such a thing as a subjective rendering of the moment of death? What role does the manipulation of time and perspective play in this rendering?
- Are there some boundaries that cannot be crossed, even in literature?
- Is humour appropriate in a novel of this nature?
- What is a 'narrative of the interior'? Can narrative operate effectively on levels other than plot and story-line?
- Is 'reality' an objective or subjective experience? Is it possible to experience a number of 'realities' at the same time? (as does Daniel as he approaches his death)
- What is the relationship between theology and physics? Do they complement or preclude each other?
- Do metaphors drawn from recent discoveries in physics detract from, or enhance, the book?
- Is there a fine line between poetry and prose? Is it important to know the difference?
- The Company of Words has been called '...an extraordinarily ambitious attempt to synthesise the mundane, the scriptural, the artistic and the new physics and to create some new gnosticism. I wouldn't go so far as to say that the novel preaches to the converted, but I do feel it goes close to preaching to the synthesised, or to those with an inclination to synthesis.' (National Book Council, Australia ) Is this a fair assessment?
Deborah Miller worked as a journalist in Australia before moving to Israel, where she was a Jerusalem-based foreign correspondent from 1981 to 1991.
She currently lives in Melbourne with her husband and three children. She is a member of the editorial committee of the journal, Generation.
Deborah is a student of Torah and Kabbalah and is currently also engaged in editing the translation of a mystical Hebrew manuscript that was discovered after the war in the ruins of the Warshaw Ghetto.
Deborah Miller is available for interviews, attending book club meetings or discussing her book at schools.
... A man is dying in Melbourne, Australia.
A man is dying.
Melbourne sprawls over flat terrain, far along the ragged coast and even farther inland. Right now, in a suburb called East St. Kilda, the man is dying.
His name is Daniel. Tumours are compressing his brain. He has survived an operable lung cancer, a triple bypass, and a rare ophthalmic melanoma which five years ago cost him his left eyeball, but the tumours are the conclusive words of his death sentence. They will continue to squeeze his brain until, overcome by their pressure, it will collapse, and Daniel will die.
When small stars collapse they become white dwarfs. Those with larger masses end life as neutron stars, or pulsars. The largest stars of all, we believe, collapse, within the impenetrable shroud of an event horizon, into black holesunprobed, unfathomable singularities at whose core is buried the super-secret of what some call infinity, and others call God.
East St. Kilda is close to the sea, not far from the city centre. West St. Kilda has the cafes, the bars, the whores, and the junkies. East St. Kilda has the hushed leafy streets, and the Jews, mostly Europe?s remnants and their offspring. Their homes are large and over-furnished, the air inside is stale with memory. Walking autobiographies are these clannish East St. Kilda Hebrews, although most are ghost written, and self-published.
Daniel is a Jew, but not a survivor. He was born in England, came to Sydney as a child, lived out the war years, splashing in puddles on Bondi Beach. He is a thoroughly English gentleman. He wrote his own book, and he has a reputable publisher.
It is literally like being able to walk unscathed in the midst of a furnace, Daniel writes. He is composing a speech for his wake, scheduled for next weekend. It is 3.13 a.m. on a dead-of-winter?s night, and Daniel has about two months left to live...