The Dis­ap­pear­ance

  • Review
By – November 7, 2011

Peo­ple are not always who they seem; nei­ther are things. In this slim col­lec­tion, Ilan Sta­vans mas­ter­ful­ly explores these and oth­er themes against back­grounds of polit­i­cal unrest and latent anti-Semi­tism. The title sto­ry is tak­en from the real-life kid­nap­ping” of a promi­nent Bel­gian actor, blamed on neo-Nazis. Three weeks lat­er, the story’s pro­tag­o­nist, thin­ner and disheveled, emerges from a sew­er with feces in his hair. Was the actor play­ing anoth­er role, kid­nap­ping him­self? Why? And what about his fam­i­ly, and the roles they play? The novel­la, morirse esta en hebreo,” is about the death of Moishe Tar­takovsky, a wealthy Mex­i­can busi­ness­man, and the week of shiv­ah. Rel­a­tives and vis­i­tors rem­i­nisce; the many facets of his life come to light, fla­vored with bits of Mex­i­can Jew­ish foods, music and cul­ture. Out­side, elec­tions are tak­ing place that will change the gov­ern­ment, but prob­a­bly not improve its rela­tion­ship with the Jews. Do we love this coun­try to death? Only as long as it allows us to live in the mar­gins of time.…” The haunt­ing sto­ry xerox man” explores the con­cept of orig­i­nal­i­ty, and the val­ue of copies. The title char­ac­ter Xerox­es major works of Hebrew reli­gion and lit­er­a­ture. He loves New York, the city that doesn’t try to be like any­place else- it just imi­tates itself. Final­ly, is this world real? Or just a flawed Xerox? 

Ilan Sta­vans’ writ­ing is lean, ele­gant, very read­able and thought pro­vok­ing. Mag­i­cal real­ism comes to mind, but there is noth­ing super­nat­ur­al in these stories.

Sydelle Shamah has been lead­ing book club dis­cus­sions for many years, and is a pub­lished sci­ence fic­tion writer. She was pres­i­dent of the Ruth Hyman Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­ter of Mon­mouth Coun­ty, NJ.

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