Emotional intensity and a powerful sense of the fragility and impermanence of both the physical body and the social fabric are the distinguishing features of this 1991 novel by the Israeli author (Katschen & The Book of Joseph, not reviewed). A collage of brief vignettes presents the experiences and ruminations of Bernhard Stein, a middle-aged German Jew who, in the 1930s, has fled Berlin for Palestine, where he mourns the death of his beloved wife Paula and endures visionary glimpses of the exterior world’s collapse as an objective correlative to the fragmentation of his own psyche (“When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, the ships anchored in Bernhard’s head go up in flames”). The novel’s structure emphasizes the insistent onward momentum of Bernhard’s chaotically busy mind: the 172 brief —chapters— overlap, the ending of one becoming the start of the opening sentence of the next. Redundancy and monotony aren—t entirely avoided, but Hoffmann does assemble a vividly individual character in his solipsistic protagonist’s cleverly linked memories and fantasies. Bernhard’s keenly felt longing for his late wife stimulates not only an unresolved relationship with an attractive widow but contrary intimations of the aroused body’s imminent decay. News of Hitler’s devastation of Europe and the war’s “progress” on several fronts intensifies Bernhard’s increasingly frequent withdrawals into the life he imagines for his invented alter ego “D.S. Gregory,” a dermatologist whose Russian father was a casualty of the American Revolutionary War. And the dreamer’s hopeful recourse to the consolation implicit in poetry, biblical wisdom, and the philosophies of Descartes and Spinoza is rudely shaken by such implacable phenomena as the Palestinian government’s decision to disallow “ram’s horns, whose sound resembles the sound of an air-raid siren, to be blown in the synagogues,” and by the inability of his own arthritic fingers to form the sign “V-Day.” Not an easy read, but a further persuasive illustration of the genius of one of Israel’s finest contemporary writers.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 1998

ISBN: 0-8112-1389-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet