In A Broken Star by Norman Finkelstein


At the heart of In a Broken Star, we find the themes of diaspora and quest romance, prophecy and gnosis, which have long suffused Norman Finkelstein’s poetry. The central poem of the book, “The Adventures of Pascal Wanderlust,” is a long narrative featuring an uncanny protagonist of indeterminate gender, age, and cultural identity, a bookish, wandering mage with mysterious links to the Immanent Foundation, the equally uncanny institution from Finkelstein’s previous book, From the Files of the Immanent Foundation, a work which Nathaniel Mackey read “wishing it would never end.” There are also intimate lyric sequences suffused with historical loss and cosmological vision. Poignant and darkly ironic, veering weirdly between Kafkaesque comedy and Lovecraftian creepiness, In a Broken Star may be Finkelstein’s most compelling and sheerly entertaining work.


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 92
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: February, 2021
  • ISBN: 978-1-953252-07-4


Norman Finkelstein’s In a Broken Star is a Wunderkammer of shining and enigmatic song-lyrics, memos and dispatches from an extra-dimensional dead letter office, and gnomic fragments of ancient wisdom texts. At its center is the astonishing narrative The Adventures of Pascal Wanderlust, in which Finkelstein has reinvented the quest narrative for our own moment—whether postmodern, post-political, post-gender, or post-truth. A knight-errant (or vagrant) in “flowered Docs,” Pascal wanders in quest of—well, they’re not quite sure: origins? genealogies? foundations (immanent or architectural)? answers? Pascal traverses waste lands recalling those of Eliot, Browning, and Lovecraft, swims and flies through libraries of Alexandria and Babel, and receives tantalizing hints of destinations in colloquies with specters from beneath the sea, from eldritch dimensions and “faery lands forlorn.” Where will Pascal find the key to all mythologies: in the Zohar? the Necronomicon? the Standard Edition of Freud? And are they all finally the same book, its pages reshaping themselves beneath the (three-lobed) reading eye? Engaging, nightmarish, intensely erudite in the arcana of canonical literature, philosophy, outsider art, and pop culture, Pascal Wanderlust is one of the most electrifying adventures in contemporary poetry. —Mark Scroggins

Some planets are far too vast to ever see, passing through total darkness into a blinding light. Thus poems dismiss themselves, only to return as poems: poet as prestigiditateur. Star-born Pascal Wanderlust cannot sit still alone, and so moves outside into a singing world, while remaining inside a room, itself a world as well. Pascal wills beauty, waking into astonishment: “O esplendor de viva luz eterna!” —Nathaniel Tarn


The Florentine’s Angelic Rose is seen in the skies
over Providence. Nephilim and Blengigomeneans
heed the call to arms. The letters leap from the scrolls.
Nice, thinks Pascal, adjusting the lenses. Phantoms.
Phantasmagoria. Phanopœia. Consults grimoires
and epic poems, refines the optics further. Mixes
a soundtrack: horns echoing among the hills, radio
static resolving into spacey theremin oscillations,
purgatorial cries—all in a minor key. Unsanctioned
interplanetary prophecy. Time to upload these visions,
broadcast these seeds. Worth the risk, thinks Wanderlust.
Tinkers with the motherboard. Boards the mothership.


Norman FinkelsteinNorman Finkelstein is the author of eleven books of poetry and six books of literary criticism, and has written extensively about modern poetry and Jewish literature. Born in New York City in 1954, he received his B.A. from Binghamton University and his Ph.D. from Emory University. He is Emeritus Professor of English at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he has lived since 1980. More about his work can be found at Norman Finkelstein: Poetry & Poetics and his poetry review blog, Restless Messengers.

Additional information

Weight 6.3 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in