cover image The Passersby

The Passersby

Liliane Atlan, trans. by Rochelle Owens. Holt/ Edge, #13.95 (96p) ISBN 0-8050-3054-9

Atlan begins her elliptical and haunting novel simply and shockingly: ''In a rich house, in Marseilles, at the end of a war, a young girl is starving herself to death. She is fourteen years old, or fifteen. Her name is No ,--her first name. But I'll get out of it is her last name.'' Neither the blandishments of her father, God does a bad job, I'll take over , nor the attentions of psychiatrists My money above all and I say nothing and I take can help No overcome her spiritual and existential crises; she must discover for herself that her pain is its own redemption. A French Jew who spent her childhood hiding from the Nazis, Atlan frames No 's story as a series of ''praises'' (Owens's preface cites the author's interest in the Kabbala and other expressions of Jewish mysticism). She pares down her narrative to include only the essential, refusing to explain or formally introduce her subjects and forcing her audience to grapple with the same questions and uncertainties that riddle No. Her novel is ambitious and challenging, but its power and elegance will fortify the reader. Ages 12-up. (Nov.)