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The Family Mashber

The Family Mashber

Paperback New York Review Books Classics

By (author) Der Nister, Introduction by David Malouf, Translated by Leonard Wolf

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  • Publisher: New York Review of Books Classics
  • Format: Paperback | 712 pages
  • Dimensions: 132mm x 201mm x 41mm | 680g
  • Publication date: 27 June 2008
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 1590172795
  • ISBN 13: 9781590172797
  • Sales rank: 320,038

Product description

The Family Mashber is a protean work: a tale of a divided family and divided souls, a panoramic picture of an Eastern European town, a social satire, a kabbalistic allegory, an innovative fusion of modernist art and traditional storytelling, a tale of weird humor and mounting tragic power, embellished with a host of uncanny and fantastical figures drawn from daily life and the depths of the unconscious. Above all, the book is an account of a world in crisis (in Hebrew, mashber means crisis), torn between the competing claims of family, community, business, politics, the individual conscience, and an elusive God. At the center of the book are three brothers: the businessman Moshe, at the height of his fortunes as the story begins, but whose luck takes a permanent turn for the worse; the religious seeker Luzi, who, for all his otherworldliness, finds himself ever more caught up in worldly affairs; and the idiot-savant Alter, whose reclusive existence is tortured by fear and sexual desire. The novel is also haunted by the enigmatic figure of Sruli Gol, a drunk, a profaner of sacred things, an outcast, who nonetheless finds his way through every door and may well hold the key to the brothers' destinies.

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Author information

Der Nister (1884-1950) was the pen name used by Pinhas Kahanovitch, a Yiddish writer, philosopher, translator, critic, and key figure in modernist literature in Kiev in the 1920s. In 1921, in the wake of the Russian Revolution, Der Nister left Russia and settled in Germany, where he published two collections of stories. In 1927, he returned to the Soviet Union, where his work was declared reactionary by the Soviet regime and its literary critics. He was arrested in 1949 and died in a Soviet prison hospital in 1950. David Malouf is a novelist and poet. His novel The Great World was awarded both the Commonwealth Prize and Remembering Babylon was short-listed for the Booker Prize. He has received the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award. He lives in Sydney, Australia.

Review quote

"Pinkhas Kahanovitsh, who wrote under the pseudonym Der Nister (or 'The Hidden One'), was a master of the surreal...What is astounding about this book, despite its extreme realism, is how it achieves a kind of surrealistic magic of its own. Despite its outwardly censor-approved story, the novel contains a hidden commentary on coercive belief and, through its breathtaking depth of detail, an almost supernatural resurrection of a Jewish life that failed to prove its right to exist. Reading this massive novel is the closest anyone can come today to living in that world." --Dara Horn, " Foreword Magazine" "The restoration to the light of this extraordinary novel is an act of literary and cultural redemption. More than that, the restitution of this Yiddish masterwork-as life-saturated as the other great Russian novels--is an augmentation of world literature." -Cynthia Ozick "Like his contemporary and friend, Marc Chagall, Kahanovitch depicts Russian Jewish life 100 years ago..