Cain’s Act: The Origins of Hate

Europa Compass Dec. 2022. 112p. tr. from Italian by Will Schutt. ISBN 9781609458157. pap. $17. REL
Although a succinct monograph, this book is a carefully deliberative and stimulating study of ethics—people’s approach to others, violence, and the underpinning drives of human life. In this book, psychoanalyst Recalcati (The Night in Gethsemane) reflects on the early texts in Genesis surrounding Cain’s killing of his brother Abel. While the framework employed draws on the tools of psychoanalysis and sometimes dominates the discussion, this book is respectful and serious about interpreting the biblical text. This allows for a fertile interaction between modern and ancient narratives, which creates space for meaningful thought about the roots of people’s fears and motivations when they notice differences in others. It also provokes theological consideration about the nature of God in Genesis. In these particular stories, God is not a violent deity but one who shows curious restraint when interacting with Cain. He communicates with and protects Cain, rather than continuing the cycle of violence through retribution.
VERDICT Though brief, this book is a rich interpretation with a depth of ethical implications, expressed clearly in Will Schutt’s translation.
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