What would happen if literary apocalypticism collided with surrealist art? The answer would be, “The Book of Revelation” translated by Michael Straus and illustrated by Jennifer May Reiland. These two might be the twenty-first century’s equivalent of William Blake and Frida Kahlo.
While I have read the Book of Revelation, also known at the Revelation to John, several times, admittedly, I have never read it in one reading. Now I have, thanks to this magnificent piece of art produced by Straus and Reiland.
These two met at an open studios event in New York, where Reiland’s “Self Portrait of Mary Magdalene Having a Vision of the Apocalypse” was on display. Straus was inspired and approached her about collaborating on a new translation of the Revelation. She was very enthusiastic, and the project took off.
Straus has successfully maintained the mystical poetic rhythm of the original language, while bringing the first writer’s vision into the modern era. We hear the phrases we expect from the original author, but then are surprised by words and phrases in Greek, Hebrew, Latin, French, and Spanish. The use of non-English words is included at the perfect moment, which add to the mysticism of the text. Straus gives depth to the prose with the accompaniment of musical stanzas, complete with Hallelujahs and Amens.
Reiland transports the first-century Apocalypse of the Four Horsemen, wild beasts, the whore of Babylon, and the Antichrist right into New York City’s collapse of the Twin Towers, Isis beheadings, and graphic eroticism. Her epic drawings are unexpectedly detailed, granting the full sweep of history’s timelessness—giving the beholder a gut punching view of modernity’s apocalypse. Reiland’s art does well to deliver the unconscious visions and dreams of the Revelation to John.
This book is beautiful little secret well worth the time and a few dollars to uncover. It definitely has enriched my reading and more importantly, my experience, of the Revelation. Fair warning to the reader, beware if you’re offend by graphic erotic art.