Middlepost

Antony Sher, Author Alfred A. Knopf $19.95 (383p) ISBN 978-0-394-57436-3
Cross Sholem Aleichem with Miguel de Cervantes, then update, and you get Antony Sher, an actor turned author of a marvelous novel about the adventures of Smous, a 35-year-old idler who, escaping pogroms, flees Lithuania at the turn of the century to find an uncle and cousin in South Africa. When he sees his first black man, Smous observes that ``the darkness came with him; it was as though the doorway had not released him, or that the sun, where he was concerned, had lost its power.'' A child in an adult body, Smous goes on to report his vicissitudes during the years it takes him to connect with his family, speaking Yiddish to Boers who respond in Afrikaans, Yiddish to English, Yiddish to Africans who speak Xhosa or unnamed tribal languages. All these people communicate by gesture, all fail to communicate, sometimes deliberately. Whatever their language or background, everyone exploits people of color and they exploit each other. So this story about a single ignorant emigrant is also the story of the Jew, himself a victim in South Africa, and his active and passive complicity in racist brutality, the story of all exiles, of all culture shock, of the process of human violence. But Sher's mythic characters, rather than living happily ever after, lay the foundation for today's South Africa. A bestseller in England, this brilliant and woeful book should do as well on these shores. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1989
Release date: 04/01/1989
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