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The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz (Novel, 1973)


Jachin-Boaz the map-maker lives in a time when lions are extinct. He makes a map for his son to find everything he could ever want, but suddenly deserts his family to look for a lion. His son Boaz-Jachin, pursuing him, finds a great deal more than just his father.

Detailed description:

Jachin-Boaz lives in an unspecified town in the Near East, where he owns a shop that sells all kinds of maps; maps to find water, love, money, whatever the heart desires. He tells his son, Boaz-Jachin, that he's making him a master-map that will be given to him when he is a man; a map that will contain all the secrets of the other maps combined, so that he will be able to find whatever he decides to look for, thus assuring him of a proper start in life. Jachin-Boaz shows his son the map and asks him what he would like to find. 'A lion,' says Boaz-Jachin. 'A lion,' says Jachin-Boaz. 'I don't think I understand you. I don't think you're being serious with me. You know very well there are no lions now.'

Cut to scene two, in which Jachin-Boaz, the father, in the throes of existential despair and mid-life crisis, quietly leaves home, taking the master-map and half the family's savings, and leaving behind a note which reads 'I have gone to look for a lion.' Boaz-Jachin is left alone with his embittered mother to run the map shop and wonder where his father has gone with the map that was supposed to be his inheritance.

In the desert not far from the town where Boaz-Jachin lives, there is a palace where the last king is entombed, and his lion hunt is carved in stone on the walls of the great hall. Boaz-Jachin, who has decided to track his father down and ask for his map, takes the bus to the palace where he makes a powerful connection with the image of the dying lion carved in stone. Through a simple but artistic act of sympathetic magic, Boaz-Jachin removes the spears from the throat of the wounded beast and sets its spirit free, then sets off on a cross-country journey to find his father. Meanwhile, Jachin-Boaz, who has established himself in a "great city" in another country, is working in a bookshop, living with a beautiful young woman named Gretel, and dreaming furtive, guilty dreams of the family he abandoned. It's about this time that he turns around one morning on his way to work, and finds himself face-to-face with a very live, powerful and dangerous lion--a lion that he, Gretel, and the son journeying to find him must face, understand and ultimately embrace if they are to find their way out of the uncharted territories of fear, guilt and alienation in which they've gotten lost.

Type of work: 
Year of first publication: 
Original publisher: 
Jonathan Cape

Review quotes: 

“A piece of invention as original as any of Tolkein’s or C.S. Lewis,.”--New Stateman

"One of those absolutely unclassifiable beauties that come along every so often, just as you've about given up hope of ever again finding a new book with a human voice behind it and a way of looking at the world that hasn't been predigested and pre-read...I wish I'd written it. It's one of a kind, and those are the only sort of books that mean anything to me."--Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn

"Mr. Hoban is unclassifiable, thank goodness. His narrative is so minutely and compellingly realistic that after a time you cease to notice that he has stood reality on its head."--The Sunday Times (London)

"First novels of outstanding quality are so rare that they call for a certain amount of celebration. One's enjoyment of the novel derives from Mr. Hoban's unusually vivid imagination, his immensely striking use of words to describe the being-with-the-lion feeling in a world where there are no lions. And, finally, most welcome of all, his use of these powerful images in conjunction with a sense of the ridiculous which verges on the total."--Auberon Waugh, The Spectator

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