BEN-HUR: A TALE OF THE CHRIST: a fresh, crisp, focused retelling of a Biblical fiction classic

Posted: November 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

The point of Hollywood remakes has often been brought into discussion, and, most of the times, controversy ensued.  Such was the case with BEN-HUR.  The 1959 movie by William Wyler is one of the cornerstones of American filmmaking, and the 1880 novel that inspired it grew into a classic(I would dare to say THE classic) of English-language Biblical fiction, so the point of a remake was bound to become a bone of contention to many(even though the film was not essentially a remake, and it’s not nearly as bad as some people make it out to be). But the movie remake is hardly the point here, because the movie is not the only BEN-HUR-related product of creativity to have recently emerged.

The great-great-granddaughter of Lew Wallace, Ms. Carol Wallace, took it upon herself to revitalize the classic novel for a new generation. And, if you ask me(as someone for whom the original novel is one of the most influential books ever), she did a fine job.

Before being quick to wonder why a classic of Biblical fiction that became a best-seller and inspired multiple stage and screen productions in its own right had to go through a face-lift, consider how much the world has changed in the period of time between the original novel and its “next-gen” version, so to speak. Images of the Middle East, as the author said, are now a couple of clicks away. And yes, Lew Wallace had a way with words. Such a way that when I first read the book, I became engrossed in all the details. But some pople might feel that all the landscape descriptions going on take away from the central theme of the novel, which is, in fact, the journey of Ben-Hur.

And this is where Ms. Wallace succeeds the most. By trimming the “fat” of her illustrious ancestor’s weighty classic, she offers the readers a chance to focus on Ben-Hur, to see  what makes him tick, to relate to him. I loved revisiting the world created by Wallace, which is still described in detail by his great-great-granddaughter, down to the language. While the language is more relatable than that used in its 19th-century predecessor, as I always do, I highly appreciated the attention that the author devoted to not making it sound anachronistic whatsoever.  The pace is also considerably faster, and the emphasis that the book places on its central character(as well as the most important women in his life), and his quest for truth and justice, makes Judah Ben-Hur take the spotlight again, only to humbly step out of the way and put it on Jesus, whose presence is discreet, but firm, in this crisp, reverent retelling of one of my favorite novels of all time. This book deserves all the attention it can get, because, in its essence, it is concrete evidence of the power of a story to endure. And I think the reason for which the story of Ben-Hur has endured for so long: the themes and values which it brings forth are themes and values everyone relates to.

Though I extend my gratitude to Ms. Wallace for  providing me with a copy of her work, a tremendous honor to a genre enthusiast like myself, the views presented herein are my own, and I am proud to say so. Ten out of five, for a “refurbished” classic.

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