The fiftieth anniversary of a lost classic—a deceptively sophisticated tale of sexual compulsion and one man’s flight from love
Yasha Mazur is a Houdini-like performer whose skill has made him famous throughout eastern Poland. Half Jewish, half Gentile, a freethinker who slips easily between worlds, Yasha has an observant Jewish wife, a Gentile assistant who travels with him, and a mistress in every town. For Yasha is an escape artist not only onstage but in life, a man who lives under the spell of his own hypnotic effect on women. Now, though, his exploits are catching up with him, and he is tempted to make one final escape—from his wife and his homeland and the last tendrils of his father’s religion.
Set in Warsaw and the shtetls of the 1870s—but first published in 1960—Isaac Bashevis Singer’s second novel hides a haunting psychological portrait inside a beguiling parable. At its heart, this is a book about the burden of sexual freedom. As such, it belongs on a small shelf with such mid-century classics as Rabbit, Run; The Adventures of Augie March; and The Moviegoer. As Milton Hindus wrote in The New York Times Book Review, “The pathos of the ending may move the reader to tears, but they are not sentimental tears . . . [Singer] is a writer of far greater than ordinary powers.”
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Like one of his mystical characters dancing between worlds of reality and fantasy, Isaac Bashevis Singer’s literary legacy – ten years after the Nobel Laureate passed away – is being reborn.
Jewish Contemporary Classics, Inc. has now published THE MAGICIAN OF LUBLIN, one of Bashevis Singer’s most famous novels, on as a six-cassette unabridged audiobook.
Veteran narrator and Broadway star Larry Keith reads this wonderfully crafted story of promiscuity and redemption, moving effortlessly among the voices of housewives, thieves and professors. The book is introduced by Bea Arthur, star of television’s “The Golden Girls.”From the Inside Flap:
Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978, Isaac Bashevis Singer accepted the prize by first giving a speech in Yiddish, the language of his writing, and then delivered the following remarks in English.
“The storyteller and poet of our time, as in any other time, must be an entertainer of the spirit in the full sense of the word, not just a preacher of social or political ideals. There is no paradise for bored readers and no excuse for tedious literature that does not intrigue the reader, uplift his spirit, give him the joy and the escape that true art always grants.
“Nevertheless, it is also true that the serious writer of our time must be deeply concerned about the problems of his generation. He cannot but see that the power of religion, especially belief in revelation, is weaker today than it was in any other epoch in human history. More and more children grow up without faith in God, without belief in reward and punishment, in the immortality of the soul, and even in the validity of ethics.
“The genuine writer cannot ignore the fact that the family is losing its spiritual foundation. All the dismal prophecies of [German philosopher and historian] Oswald Spengler have become realities since the Second World War. No technological achievements can mitigate the disappointment of modern man, his loneliness, his feeling of inferiority, and his fear of war, revolution, and terror. Not only has our generation lost faith in Providence, but also in man in himself, in his institutions, and often in those who are nearest to him.
“In their despair a number of those who no longer have confidence in the leadership of our society look up to the writer, the master of words. They hope against hope that the man of talent and sensitivity can perhaps rescue civilization. Maybe there is a spark of the prophet in the artist after all.
“As the son of a people who received the worst blows that human madness can inflict, I have many times resigned myself to never finding a true way out. But a new hope always emerges, telling me that it is not yet too late for all of us to take stock and make a decision. I was brought up to believe in free will.
“Although I came to doubt all revelation, I can never accept the idea that the universe is a physical or chemical accident, a result of blind evolution. Even though I learned to recognize the lies, the clichés, and the idolatries of the human mind, I still cling to some truths which I think all of us might accept someday. There must be a way for man to attain all possible pleasures, all the powers and knowledge that nature can grant him, and still serve God—a God who speaks in deeds, not in words, and whose vocabulary is the universe. “I am not ashamed to admit that I belong to those who fantasize that literature is capable of bringing new horizons amid new perspectives—philosophical, religious, aesthetical, and even social. In the history of old Jewish literature, there was never any basic difference between the poet and the prophet. Our ancient poetry often became law and a way of life.
“Some of my cronies in the cafeteria near the Jewish Daily Forward in New York call me a pessimist and a decadent, but there is always a background of faith behind resignation. I found comfort in such pessimists and decadents as Baudelaire, Verlaine, Edgar Allan Poe, and Strindberg. My interest in psychic research made me find solace in such mystics as your Swedenborg and in our own Rabbi Nachman Bratzlaver, as well as in a great poet of my time, my friend Aaron Zeitlin, who died a few years ago and left a spiritual inheritance of high quality, most of it in Yiddish.
“The pessimism of the creative person is not decadence but a mighty passion for the redemption of man. While the poet entertains, he continues to search for eternal truths, for the essence of being. In his own fashion he tries to solve the riddle of time and change, to find an answer to suffering, to reveal love in the very abyss of cruelty and injustice.
“Strange as these words may sound, I often play with the idea that when all the social theories collapse and wars and revolutions leave humanity in utter gloom, the poet—whom Plato banned from his Republic—may rise up and save us all.”
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Book Description Paperback. Book Condition: Very Good. The book has been read, but is in excellent condition. Pages are intact and not marred by notes or highlighting. The spine remains undamaged. Bookseller Inventory # GOR002517523
Book Description Penguin Books Ltd. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: Very Good. 0140186751 page ends are dark yellowed. Bookseller Inventory # GIRAFFE0004395