Wednesday, December 30, 2015

East of Eden by I. J. Singer

This Yiddish novel should not be confused with John Steinbeck's novel although the Biblical reference is the same. Singer's novel is set in Poland and Russia, not the Salinas Valley.  Singer's theme is the great transformation of Eastern European Jewry from a very religious, traditional parochial God fearing community to a God hating, collectivist internationalism of Marxism that swept Russia.

Historians ask what happened to that very religious community?  What was the attractive nature of communism that swept so many Jews away from their Torah lifestyle?  Singer creates an authentic answer through the medium of a family saga that begins in abject poverty from one of the small Jewish villages, Shtetles in Poland not far from Warsaw and ends with disillusionment in Soviet Russia.

This is a gritty novel of indentured servitude, lack of education, simple faith, simple heresy.  It is a story of seduction in both the sensual world and the world of ideas.  It is a story of being seduced by the new promises of "liberation" only to be disappointed that there is no utopian society.  It is a story of desire, the desire to be Jewish or not to be Jewish!

I J Singer always promises a climatic ending and this novel delivers a powerful message against Communism and the collective society that strips one of one's personal autonomy.  Truly a great novelist, his contribution is highly recommended!

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