Two groups of Jewish village tales by an established Soviet journalist who emigrated to Israel in 1971. Sevela does not have the schematic reach of Wiesel or the sophistication of Singer and there is no sacramental religious focus; however the light irony used by contemporary Soviet writers to deal with social ills (and their own safety), when linked to a Jewish bitterness and despair, is often intensely moving and effective. The author takes the reader, murmuring apologies and asides, up the marble steps to a Vilno barbershop -- steps mysteriously inscribed in Polish ""The Road to Happiness."" Inside lonely, mostly elderly, Jews, who've lost families to the Nazis (and now there's Stalin at the end of his reign), listen and tell tales -- about wandering, about survival, about the lost ones. The second group of stories are in the form of memories of ""Invalid Street"" in a Jewish village dominated by wagoners -- giant men and women tough and resilient as tree trunks. The puckish gonif of angel smiles and devilish tricks, the champion wrestler elevated by acclamation to political stardom, the brute who tenderly nursed his ""skunk of a wife,"" two sad sacks who united a village -- they are all gone. Some walked to their deaths hand in hand; but how was it with the others? Without the religious touchstone which has always allowed for the essential ""why,"" Sevela has one of his characters make a statement all the more savage and cynical in its finality: ""That's the luck of the Jews.