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Meyrink reworks and amplifies the legend of the Wandering Jew (a being fated to walk the earth from the days of Christ till the end of time), portraying his Chidher Green as a harbinger of cataclysmic change both for the novel's protagonist, Fortunatus Hauberrisser, and for Amsterdam in general. The story begins with Hauberrisser encountering Chidher Green in a magic shop one day, oblivious to his identity. Soon after, Hauberrisser finds a peculiar chain of old memories and chance encounters erupting around him. As in a house of mirrors, this one image of a bronze-green face suddenly appears around every corner. The face becomes a sort of totem of meditative contemplation (drawing associations with Zen Buddhism). Finally, Hauberrisser and his companions reach a consensus over the phenomenon's significance: If one were to attain a spiritual state in which this face manifested internally, a unique form of transcendence would then be achieved.
When all is said and done, Fortunatus Hauberrisser does not prove to be one of Meyrink's most memorable characters. However, it is also true that his protagonists are often intended as ciphers. If this novel is Meyrink's "Book of Revelation," then Hauberrisser is certainly his Saint John, valuable largely for his role as privileged witness to the spirit world's mysteries.
Also, the route Hauberrisser must take through the story is Meyrink's familiar path of enlightenment-a moment of sudden spiritual awareness followed by a period of isolation, which at last leads to promises of a mystical marriage. Though this path echoes through Meyrink's other work, it would be a mistake to imagine he is simply repeating himself or relying on a formula here. Meyrink has a very distinct vision of the soul's progress; and it is this intense conviction that again manifests so clearly in "The Green Face."
"At the beginning, when we make our first, hesitant attempts, it is like a mindless groping in the dark, and sometimes we do things that resemble the actions of a madman and for a long time seem to lack all consistency. It is only gradually that the chaos forms into a countenance, in whose varying expressions we can read the will of destiny. At first they are grimaces, but that is the way it is with all great matters."
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The guy is a heavy thinker, and come from a European tradition of taking science fiction seriously as a literature of ideas (Lem wrote the classic Solaris, which was made into a Russian movie). He is quite readable, however, and is obviously passionate about his subject. This book is essential for any academic study of science fiction, and for any reader who takes the genre's potential seriously.
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