THE POWER OF LIGHT by Isaac Bashevis Singer


Eight Stories for Hanukkah
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Only now and again in these eight stories is the Singer stamp evident--in the appearance of a Yiddish-speaking parakeet at a Brooklyn window one frosty Hannukkah evening, in the eerie extinction of the Hanukkah candles at the same moment in every house in long-ago Bilgoray, on each of the holiday's first seven nights. "The Parakeet Named Dreidel" ends in conventional fairy-tale fashion (after eight years the bird is reclaimed--by a young woman who will marry the son of the house); "The Extinguished Lights" bears up better--the culprit is a vengeful spirit, laid to rest by miraculously lighting the Hanukkah candles outdoors the last night, by her grave. The other stories, however, fall into one or another common inspirational mold. Least supportable is the title story, a blatantly written-down, prettied-up account of a young couple in the Warsaw ghetto who take "hope and strength" from a single, hidden Hanukkah candle and escape to the partisans: "From the day David and Rebecca met the partisans," we're told, "their life became like a tale in a storybook." There's a story of a fawn who appears one Hanukkah evening to a couple who've longed for a child--as foretold by a stranger who's promised the wife a child; a story of a young boy seized for service in the Tsar's army one Hanukkah evening--who returns years later to find his faithful betrothed dead; and a story of a stranger who loses all his gold coins to the children of a poor family one Hanukkah evening--and on whose departure their failing father awakes "a healthy man." Like the others, it's a testament of faith--"Nothing but a miracle could have saved him, so a miracle occurred"--but without the ironies, the fabulous imaginings, the fingertip observations of Singer at his best.
Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1981
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1981


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