John Gabriel Borkman
Large Type Edition
By Henrik Ibsen
BiblioLife (2008), 168 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - June 30, 2010
Ibsen's plays are classics. They are enjoyable, intelligent, engrossing, dramatic comments upon society. They are relevant today as they were in the 1890s.
The nineteenth century John Gabriel Borkman, like the twenty-first century's Bernie Madoff, bilked his friends of their life savings. Both were highly respected until they were caught and sent to jail, and both had lived well. Ibsen examines the impact that Borkman's nefarious acts have upon him, his wife, her sister, his son, and his friends.
Borkman spent three years in detention, then five years in jail, then, after his release, eight years in the upper story of his sister-in-law's house, for he had no money any more. For eight years he walked back and forth in his room, like a caged rat, waiting for the day that he was certain would come when he would rise again.
Ibsen focuses especially on three episodes. Borkman wanted so strongly to obtain wealth and power that he gave up what was important to him. Without realizing what he was doing, in a Faustian fashion, he gained power and wealth, but destroyed his own life and the life of another. What prompted his need for power? What did he give up? Who was involved? Who did he especially hurt?
Borkman's wife hates him. During the eight post-prison years, she refuses to meet with him although they live in the same house. Why?
Borkman's sister-in-law helps him for Borkman did not squander her funds. Why? Why also did she raise his son? What affect did all of this have on her and his son?
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of fifteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Rabbi Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.gefenpublishing.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes daily samples of the Targum books on www.ouradio.org.