A RUSSIAN FAREWELL by Leonard Everett Fisher


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How it came to be that Benjamin and Hannah Shapiro, and their eleven children, left Krolovets for America in 1906--an account that, given the mass of circumstantial detail, one can well believe to be ""based on actuality"" (like Across the Sea from Galway and Letters from Italy, Fisher's earlier books in this series); but it has, unfortunately, no fictional values. Indeed, considering the content--persecution and pogroms--the book is remarkably devoid of dramatic impact altogether. Benjamin Shapiro, we learn, considers himself privileged, and relatively safe, as the respected proprietor of a delicatessen, with wide Russian business contacts. ""As long as the system needed him, so long as he could provide a necessary service and obey the rules, things would work out."" Besides, hasn't isolated Krolovets escaped trouble before? Then the railway comes through, Russia is defeated by Japan, the 1905 Revolution breaks out, the Jews are blamed (Shapiro, for ostensibly selling ""rotten meat"" to the Odessa mutineers), the local synagogue is wrecked, houses are burned. . . and Hannah, urged by her sister-in-law in Brooklyn, finally prevails upon Benjamin to take flight. This sequence of events, however, is constantly interrupted for explanations and recapitulations. And the actual departures--first of three of the Shapiro daughters, then of the rest of the family--have the aspect almost of a postscript, so little are we involved with these people as persons. Along the way considerable information is provided about the conditions under which the Ukrainian Jews lived, but nothing that can't be gleaned from other books of fact and fiction.

Pub Date: Oct. 13th, 1981
Publisher: Four Winds