The title of this provocative short-fiction collection, written in their adopted Italian by Hungarian emigre twins, refers to the Jewish quarter of Budapest, ``a crucible of poverty and human suffering'' blighted by Nazism, Stalinism and the suppression of the 1956 uprising. We meet Ilona, a former beauty who attracted six lovers; her hair is now burnt from dyeing and her legs are shriveled, but a seventh admirer courts her: death. The grotesquely obese Selma believes that her double conversion--from Judaism to Christianity and back again--magically saved her loved ones from Hitler's gas chambers. The daughter of a punitive mother, the wife of a husband who steals her money and has a mistress, Rachel escapes reality by stuffing herself with tranquilizers. For one narrator, a Sabbath stew arouses bitter youthful memories: a gentile bully called him a ``filthy Jew'' and snatched a pot of stew from his hands; a cousin then punished him for not avenging himself on ``the criminals who wiped us out.'' A man who returns to the synagogue where he hid, hungry and dirty, as an angry boy during the war tells a poignant story, but a monologue by a brain-damaged man on the eve of his commitment to a mental institution manipulates the reader. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1990 Release date: 01/01/1990 Genre: Fiction
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