The One-Handed Pianist and Other Stories

Ilan Stavans, Author University of New Mexico Press $14.95 (206p) ISBN 978-0-8263-1645-5
Presenting intense explorations of Jewish life and identity in the Hispanic world, Stavans's stories feature individualists who relentlessly investigate spirituality beyond the realm of orthodox religion. The eponymous pianist, traumatized by her mother's accidental death, temporarily loses all feeling in her left hand, but she takes comfort in believing that God is palpably, aromatically present in her kitchen. Some of the eight stories mix autobiography and fantasy, like `The Invention of Memory,'' in which a Czech memory expert, his phenomenal powers of recall eroding due to incurable disease, travels to Mexico seeking a ``Land of Oblivion'' but instead discovers a country layered with historical periods, symbols, misery and modernity. Stavans, born in Mexico of Russian-Polish Jewish ancestry, inserts himself into ``Talia in Heaven,'' a tale that melds Jewish mysticism, thriller fiction and soaring meditations on sexuality, love, God and the roots of anti-Semitism. In the collection's concluding essay, ``Lost in Translation,'' the author, who in 1994 was a finalist for the National Book Critics' Circle Excellence in Reviewing Award, celebrates the underappreciated contribution of Jews in the Hispanic world--an oversight slightly ameliorated when the stories in this book, which was published in two parts in Spanish, won the Latino Literature Prize in 1989 and the Gamma Literature Prize in 1992. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/29/1996
Release date: 02/01/1996
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 196 pages - 978-0-8101-2460-8
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