The Family Mashber

Nister Der, Author, Der Nister, Author, Der, Author Summit Books $22.45 (0p) ISBN 978-0-671-52768-6
This vast mural of the Ukraine, written in Yiddish 50 years ago and only now published in English, traces a year in the fortunes of the Jewish family Mashber, plunged from prosperity to penury as the Polish town that has sustained them falls into ruin. Material collapse is a metaphor for loss of true piety, for ritual observance that ignores the plight of the poor, whose miserable labor has brought wealth to Moshe Mashber. Tragedy strikes with a vengeance: credit is no longer available to money-lending Moshe; he is tried and jailed; his daughter dies, then his wife, and, finally, Moshe himself. The novel is pervaded by death; whole families we have come to know and pity are stricken by starvation and disease. Perhaps the final volume would have offered some hope for the future, but the book was unfinished when its author (whose pseudonym means ""the hidden one'') died in a Russian prison hospital in 1950. Despite its grim tone, The Family Mashber is notable for its depth and breadth of characterization, noise and variety, coarse comedy and Goya-esque depiction of jostling, importunate mobs. Readers won't soon forget the mansions and hovels, refuse-strewn alleys and fragrant courts of the market town so vividly re-created in this powerful novel. Jewish Book Club alternate. (June 10)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1987
Release date: 06/01/1987
Genre: Fiction
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