MUSICAL MOMENT

AND OTHER STORIES

Four stories set against the sharply delineated background of Israel in the 1940's and 50's, with a single narrator who matures into selfhood in an often dangerous world. As in the harshly moving The Way to the Cats (1994), Israeli author Kenaz freezes moments in the kaleidoscopic changes of focus within the curious universe of the self. ``The Three-Legged Chicken'' chronicles a liberating moment in the life of a young boy who sees the landscape become ``strange'' as a voice—not his own but one from within—pronounces ``I,I,I,I.'' On the day of his grandfather's death he will witness ugliness and cruelty as men with a lust for spectacle crowd in to see a deformed chicken. In ``Henrik's Secret,'' a girl's beauty and her young brother's secret anguish flare up into loneliness and incomprehensible feelings of guilt (somehow linked to disgust) in the boy. The title tale depicts a moment of exquisite music that becomes the lodestone of this young man's erratic career in violin lessons, during which he closely scrutinizes peers and adults—including his beloved parents, who have their own secrets that would ``follow them like shadows. Beyond my control.'' In ``Between Night and Dawn,'' a group of virtually stereotypical Israeli teens—the leader; the plain, good-guy girl; the beauty; the cynic—are shaken in their roles by the impact of an untamed, sexually disturbing outsider. Throughout the text, Kenaz snaps with precision the instant-by- instant confrontations of life and its moments of releasing joy or love or beauty. At one point the boy turns on a radio: ``In the babble of whistles and growls...music and song bursting out and abruptly stifled, I discovered a cruel and abusive world.'' Searching tales in a spare prose, close to the bone.

Pub Date: May 11, 1995

ISBN: 1-883642-18-3

Page Count: 178

Publisher: Steerforth

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1995

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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