The Golem and the Jinni

I saw Zoe Markham delightedly recommending this, so I got myself a copy of Helene Wecker’s “The Golem and the Jinni” on Kindle.

As a reader, I agree with that sentiment. This was fun to read.

As a writer, I’d like to make a couple of points.

For one, in the novel one of the main characters makes the Golem. He gets some specifications from the guy who paid for the work. Like make her “curious” and “intelligent”. The latter request is not a common quality in Golem literature, of which there are many efforts before this one. Most Golems in literature are stupid.

And actually it was not that buyer who decided that the Golem would be smart. It was Helene Wecker, the author of this novel.

While it is impossible in real life to take some clay and make a curious smart submissive wife from that, it is very possible in real life for an author to make his protagonist whatever the author wants.

That’s especially true if you’re writing your protagonists as supernatural. You can have a smart Golem and a Jinni that doesn’t grant any wishes.

Next, I think it was kind of a waste of talent to have this smart and curious Golem with all kinds of super powers, and have her working in a bakery for the whole book. Couldn’t she find some more interesting opportunities? I mean, this Golem understands all languages, can read minds, is willing to give people what they want, does not need to waste time to eat and sleep, so surely there would be some better use for that kind of talent than baking some bread? A successful presidential campaign, maybe, for starters, and then stop World War I from erupting, or something?

Also, I would like to be able to write as good as Wecker. On the other hand, it took her seven years of effort for this one book. It should be good, with that kind of investment in time. But, when reading successful books as an author, it is always a good idea to ask what explains the success.

One theory is simple. Both the Golem and the Jinni are elements of folklore. These stories have been around for hundreds or thousands of years. That’s because they are interesting. Taking two such interesting elements and adding a couple of new twists may be one building block for a successful story.

So instead of building a supernatural alien character (Khalmorot) from scratch, like I did with my novels, it would probably have been a better idea to make him a Jinni made by some Greek God or other. And I am sure there are still a lot of possible combinations for such unlikely pairs.



Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

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