KITH AND KIN by Andre Kaminski


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With the pinioning irony, extravagant humor, and pervasive humanity traditional in the Jewish comic novel of the Diaspora, this first novel (translated from the German) assembles a diverse family of Kaminskis. Searchers and schemers, victims, heroes, and lovers--all are made grandly visible through volcano-rim mists of passions and some ugly, dreadful circumstances of the times: the first two decades of the century in a virulently anti-Semitic Europe. ""Truth""--reverently quotes the narrating Kaminski from a remote rabbinical ancestory--""is the most precious of all possessions and should be used sparingly and with restraint."" So the fantastic adventures of Great-uncle Henner Rosenbach--liar, sponger, and psychopath, and inventor of color photography--are as airborne as Chagall's floating villagers. Polar opposite to handsome Henner, the mad dreamer, is his brother Leo, ever the victim--of Henner; of his own wife, the beautiful Jana, who climbed a tree to avoid marrying him; of even daughter Malva. The family is driven from Galicia--one of a series of emigrations to avoid the hobnails and claws of the Enemy (the anti-semitic world). Photographer Leo plies his trade in Vienna, while Jana and Malva are besotted with love of heroes and dreamers--like Henner and crusading Socialists. Meanwhile, arriving from America, where he and his ten brothers had fled to escape doom and death as revolutionists and to form a soccer team, is Hershele, now ""Henry."" to the smitten Malva he'll arrive as a ""cloud in pants."" While the father of the Kaminski brothers, Yankel--who cast off his revolutionary sons--woos an actress, Leo the victim is ruined again; Henry opts for Romance over Revolution; Malva, in peaceful Switzerland, married to Henry and awaiting the author, notes that ""Everyday life seems totally unheroic""; and Henner takes a calamitous pilgrimage away from--and back to--Judaism. A witty, shrewd flight over plausibility, but infused with home truths about human idiocy and miraculous aspirations, as well as a scalding commentary about injustice and symbol-laced speculations and intuitions concerning Jewish identity.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1988
Publisher: Fromm--dist. by Kampmann (9 East 40 St., New York, NY 10016)