The Magi­cian of Lublin

Isaac Bashe­vis Singer; Elaine Got­tlieb and Joseph Singer, trans.

  • From the Publisher
December 12, 2013

Yasha Mazur is a Hou­di­ni-like per­former whose skill has made him famous through­out east­ern Poland. Half Jew­ish, half gen­tile, a free­thinker who slips eas­i­ly between worlds, Yasha has an obser­vant Jew­ish wife, a gen­tile assis­tant who trav­els with him, and a mis­tress in every town. For Yasha is an escape artist, not only onstage but in life, a man who lives under the spell of his own hyp­not­ic effect on women. Now, though, his exploits are catch­ing up with him, and he is tempt­ed to make one final escape — from his wife and her faith and their homeland.

Set in the shtetls and War­saw of the 1870s — but first pub­lished in 1960 — Isaac Bashe­vis Singer’s sec­ond nov­el hides a haunt­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal por­trait inside a beguil­ing para­ble. At its heart, this is a book about the bur­den of sex­u­al free­dom. As such, it belongs on a small shelf with such mid­cen­tu­ry clas­sics as Rab­bit, Run;The Adven­tures of Augie March; and The Movie­go­er. As Mil­ton Hin­dus wrote inThe New York Times Book Review, The pathos of the end­ing may move the read­er to tears, but they are not sen­ti­men­tal tears … [Singer] is a writer of far greater than ordi­nary powers.”

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