WHY THERE IS NO HEAVEN ON EARTH by Ephraim Sevela

WHY THERE IS NO HEAVEN ON EARTH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Sevela's Legends from Invalid Street, a group of Jewish village tales set in his native Soviet Union, was published here for adults in 1974. This memory of the narrator's childhood friend is also set on Invalid Street, and some of the same characters appear; but this story, which begins as a loose series of light anecdotes and continues with more extended and more moving episodes, is tied together by the character of Berele Mats. ""A truly great human being"" who ""did deeds of practical good,"" who got all A's and was always in trouble, Berele Mats is no longer on earth. And that is the reason, Sevela laments repeatedly through the first chapter and again at the end, why there is no heaven on earth. Berele's early escapades include stealing to give out ice cream and balloons without keeping any for himself, and obtaining the family bread by scrambling across the shoulders and heads of the crowds in the bread lines. Berele makes tunnels into the circus for himself and his friends, and is doused with sewage by the waiting guard. He enters the lion cage and comes out a hero with stinking pants. There's a bittersweet episode ending in the funeral of a little circus girl both boys were in love with, and a more developed one in which Berele plays violin accompaniment for a blind beggar girl, Marusia. But more and more Sevela hints at the coming tragedy and the coming war (World War II) and refers to ominous examples of the Jews' loss of their post-revolutionary high standing. Eventually the narrator's family flees before the Germans, but Berele's father won't leave his possessions and the narrator, returning after the war, hears of Berele's death from Marusia. Told with flavor, and with increasingly communicable feeling.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1982
Publisher: Harper & Row