Musicians and Watchmakers

Alicia Steimberg, Author, Andrea G. Labinger, Translator Latin American Literary Review Press $15 (128p) ISBN 978-0-935480-96-2
A pungent, semi-autobiographical account of growing up Jewish in Argentina in the 1940s, this small gem of a novel (originally published in Spanish in 1971) is marked by Steimberg's distinctive voice--wittily irreverent, ironic yet warm, at once precocious and worldly-wise. The young narrator (also named Alicia Steimberg) conjures up an offbeat family portrait gallery, including Alicia's controlling, widowed mother, hypochondriac maternal Kiev-born grandmother, atheist vegetarian grandfather and endlessly feuding aunts. Alicia, stigmatized by her anti-Semitic fifth-grade teacher, undergoes a pseudo-conversion to Catholicism with a Catholic playmate 10 years her senior. The narrator's blossoming sexuality (and her mother's dire reprimands against autoeroticism), the trauma of an uncle pawing her sexually, her budding political sensibility in regimented Peronist Argentina are recorded with great humor and the perceptiveness of a sensitive, insecure girl in an eccentric, overbearing family. Labinger's translation is a delight, conveying the sights, sounds, misconceptions and dreams of an intensely experienced youth. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
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