Wednesday, January 27, 2010



Ambivalence, concealment with mystery inscrutable,
Maimonides, like a computer always bootable,
or widely open book with knowledge that provides
all answers, except maybe Strauss’s that he hides.

Inspired by a review of Joel L. Kraemer’s Maimonides, reviewed in the TLS, January 25, 2010, by Nicholas de Lange. De Lange wonders whether Kraemer’s book was necessary after Herbert Davidson’s Moses Maimonides: The man and his works, which he describes as a monograph that is so “thorough and complete that it is reasonable to wonder why anyone would want to write another book in English covering the same ground so soon afterwards.” Whereas Davidson emphasizes the lack of evidence of any conversion to Islam by the Maimon family under the Almohad persecution of Jews, Kraemer “gives greater credence to sources that support the case for accepting Maimonides’s conversion than to the counterevidence.” He points out that whereas Davidson is critical of Strauss’s reading of the Guide, Kraemer writes warmly of his Persecution and the Art of Writing, in which he says of Maimonides: “His was a life of ambivalence, concealment, and inscrutable mystery.” He concludes by writing:

Few people know the subject as Joel Kraemer does. His intimate familiarity with Maimonides’s writings is evident throughout the book. It is an easy and enjoyable book to read (which is something rare in Maimonidean studies). It is all the more disappointing, then, to discover a study that, for all its erudition, if often uncritical and superficial, and compares unfavorably with that of Davidson.


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