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"To forget is to abandon, to forget is to repudiate." One of the main themes sounded by Wiesel in his many essays and novels is the essential function of memory, which allows us to grant dignity and honor to one life and one death or to many lives, many deaths. Here, in a rather stiff-jointed novel (though stirring as a kind of spiritual manifesto), an elderly Holocaust survivor faces the relentless progress of a disease that is destroying his memory, while his son takes a journey to the past—his father's past—to substitute his own memory for the father's. Malkiel Rosenbaum, writer of obituaries for The New York Times, travels to the small village in Romania where his father Elhanan was born. Elhanan had escaped the mass killing and deportation by some hideous chance as a teenager, became part of the Russian army, was a partisan, and married on the refugee ship on its way to Palestine. But within those facts are many lives betrayed, innocence slaughtered, heroic and terrible deaths. During Malkiel's visits to the village cemetery, he meets the deformed gravedigger, self-styled "last Jew" of the town—a traditional mocking, cackling figure of death itself who conjures up tales of demons and sages and tells the tale of the Great Reunion of dead and buried rabbinical judges, who can't stop a train carrying the doomed. At the last, there's another ancient—blind with tears shed for all that have gone. His advice to Malkiel is to leave the dead. (But Malkiel will once again assault the past in the person of an old woman, who, as her younger self, bad tormented Elhanan's memory.) Finally, Malkiel returns to "forge new links within the ambiguities of life." Another wise and somber facet of Wiesel's exploration of the nurturing bonds between generations of living and dead.

Pub Date: April 1, 1992

ISBN: 0805210199

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1992

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The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed.

This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel." It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define.  Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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