Home Books Book Review: “The Prophet of the Andes,” by Graciela Mochofsky

Book Review: “The Prophet of the Andes,” by Graciela Mochofsky

by Jersey Lady

But the most notable exclusion is events, not people. This is the story of Jewish faith without the Holocaust involved at all. It is, as Mochkovsky writes, “Judaism without past, without tradition, without memory of persecution, without Holocaust, without struggle for Zionism.” Peruvian converts were escaping not persecution or pogroms, but extreme poverty fueled by government corruption. When Israeli messengers visited the Villanueva congregation, they were astounded by the barrenness of the place: a temple without dirt floors, no plumbing, candlelit windows, and no roof. Israel was a signpost for these newly-made Jews as well. They too had a brutal legacy. Colonialism, the Spaniards arrived in Peru, conquered, murdered, and forcibly converted the local population.

Many of Villanueva’s followers remain in Israel today, but Villanueva did not find peace there. Rabbis, like all leaders, were prone to error and contradictory interpretations of the Torah. His insistence on continuing to ask questions annoyed Villanueva everywhere, as usual. So this is ultimately the story of a journey without a destination, and Villanueva is more of a tragic figure than a savior or prophet. He is a restless, homeless, helpless seeker, searching endlessly without being found, sowing relentlessly without reaping, and dying with his mind and memory in tatters. In the Old Testament, this is the fate of Cain. Coleridge, Ancient Mariners. But when you come across this man in folklore, he is known by a different, more familiar name. He is a wandering Jew.


Kat Rosenfield is a cultural writer, columnist for Unherd, and author of four novels, including the Edgar-nominated No One Will Miss Her. Her next book, You Must Remember This, will be published in January.


Andean Prophets: An Improbable Journey to the Promised Land, Graciela Motschkowski Translated by Lisa Dillman | 272 pages | Alfred A. Knopp | $30


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