LOST IN AMERICA by Isaac Bashevis Singer
Kirkus Star

LOST IN AMERICA

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

The Nobel Laureate continues his selective, semi-fictional memoirs--"contributions to an autobiography I never intend to write"--with a third, large-print volume illustrated by Raphael Soyer. It's now 1935, and, "since I didn't possess the courage to kill myself," Isaac must escape from Poland and join his older brother in N.Y. Which means leaving behind his assorted amours: Trotskyite Lena, now pregnant; epically depressed matron Stefa ("If a grave would open for me, I'd jump into it this minute"); and cousin Esther. But Isaac, that "timid adventurer," does manage to get his visa--"I envied the cobblestones in the street, which needed no passports, no visas, no novels, no reviews"--and trembles his way across Europe to the boat at Cherbourg. He's lost on the ship. He fears that his dining-hall card marked "second sitting" is a signal to the waiter "to poison my food." He ends up eating in his cabin, served stale bread and cheese by "a man who could be a prison guard". . .until meeting congenial virgin Zosia (who's headed for Boston). And once settled in Brooklyn, near writer brother Joshua, he's overwhelmed with melancholy: he can't write (though the Yiddish Forward has bought his unfinished novel); he knows no English ("I knew that I would remain a stranger here to my last day"); he has an obsessive affair with an older woman, a haunted widow ("She hadn't lost her husband, she assured me--his spirit had entered by body"). Worse yet, he'll be deported if he doesn't get a permanent visa. So he embarks on a nerve-wracking scheme requiring him to sneak into Canada--and his accomplice is Zosia, who clearly hopes to lose her virginity on the trip. (But this loveless act is unconsummated: "our genitals, which in the language of the vulgar are synonyms of stupidity and insensitivity, are actually the. . .enemies of lechery, the most ardent defenders of true love.") Isaac returns to his cockroach-infested room, Zosia marries a rich oddball, life goes on: "I am lost in America, lost forever." And despite the nonstop laments, this sharp, shapely memoir bounces along quite merrily--with the wicked, ironic grace of three or four overlapping Singer stories.
Pub Date: June 5th, 1981
ISBN: 0385177178
Page count: 259pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1981




MORE BY ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER

NonfictionMORE STORIES FROM MY FATHER’S COURT by Isaac Bashevis Singer
by Isaac Bashevis Singer
FictionSHADOWS ON THE HUDSON by Isaac Bashevis Singer
by Isaac Bashevis Singer
FictionMESHUGAN by Isaac Bashevis Singer
by Isaac Bashevis Singer

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS: