THE SLAVE by Isaac Bashevis Singer


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Set in 17th century Poland, at a time when marauding Ukranian Cossacks perpetrated the most helnous of crimes against the Jewish populace, Singer's novel traces the development of Taimudle scholar Jacob Josefov from his literal bondage among the pagan-Christian peasants to his existential freedom from the fetters of doctrinal commitment. By marrying the daughter of his master, against judaic, Christian and Polish law, Jacob sets himself and his wife Wanda apart from the community of men. Though they do finally settle among Jacob's people, wanda, lest she reveal her background, must feign muteness. She is cut off from all but Jacob. And Jacob himself is isolated by his love for Wanda. Wanda is silent until the pangs of childbirth and the awareness of impending death compel her to speak. She speaks and dies. The community refuses to inter her body in Jewish soil. Jacob must take his infant son and fice. And it is then, aware finally of the simplicity of man-to-God relationship and the complexity of that which involves man and man, man and himself, that he releases himself from the trappings of law to become a free man and a prophet among his people. Singer, along with Cecil Hemicy, has translated his own work. And a remarkable job it is: The descriptions of pagan barbarism, the filth of poverty, the legacy of plunder are overwhelmingly graphic. Jacob's quite modern plight is superbly delineated. Exciting, exotic, quite moving, The Slave could do very well indeed.
Pub Date: June 11th, 1962
ISBN: 0374506809
Page count: 328pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Cudahy
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1962


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