cover image The Shawl

The Shawl

Cynthia Ozick. Knopf Publishing Group, $12.95 (69pp) ISBN 978-0-394-57976-4

``The Shawl'' is a brief story first published in the New Yorker in 1981; ``Rosa,'' its longer companion piece, appeared in that magazine three years later. Each story won First Prize in the O. Henry Prize Stories in the year of its publication; each was included in a ``Best American Short Stories'' collection. Together, they form a book that etches itself indelibly in the reader's mind. ``Lublin, Rosa'' (as the main character refers to herself) has lived through the Holocaust; she resents being called a ``survivor'' because she is a ``human being.'' Resettled in Miami in 1977 after years in New York, she does not have a life in the present because her existence was stolen away from her in a past that does not end. Like Bellow's Herzog, Rosa writes letters in her head; but Rosa's are to her dead daughter Magda, whose shawl she has preserved as both talisman and security blanket. Rosa periodically conjures Magda's life at different stages (as a teenager, as a doctor living in Mamaroneck); yet she is haunted by the reality of her baby's murder. Ozick carefully steers the reader through the mazes of Rosa's mind, rendering her life with unsparing emotional intensity. (Sept . )