MARTZE by Jack Sendak


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Martze is one of those ineffable fantasies (fables? parables?) that never quite coalesces; it is also -- incongruously --proliferous and prosy. The title character is a boy (dressed, East European fashion, like a man) who believes-- because a storm stopped when he wished it, because he saw a girl walking a tightrope when he wished for a vision -- that he has the power to do magic. Because he can't turn the scoffing townspeople to stone, he decides to go where he will be appreciated and his magic will work. But he is hounded everywhere -- by smiling fiends in the pretty village, by the play-acting king in the cardboard village, by instant adherents in the precipitous mountain village; and everywhere his efforts to undo falsity fail -- the captive giant whom he releases yearns to return to confinement, the would be king resents the destruction of his presumed kingdom, the fanatical mountaineers bemoan the loss of their ""wizard."" For each, Martze is as the iceman cometh--each prefers the security of illusion to reality. This aspect is figurative and cumulative; far more literal and sporadic is Martze's central predicament -- is his magic ineffectual because he has been invoking it as a weapon or is it (also) an illusion? The talky resolution involves an escaping orphan girl and her pet, deceased bird: they were the ones Martze saw on the tightrope but they have no significance except to impel him to try his magic once more. It works for him but not for the reader.

Pub Date: June 14th, 1968
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux