Meshugah

Meshugah
Image courtesy of Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
Jacket Copy:

Meshugah, a newly discovered novel by Isaac Bashevis Singer, is an impressive work which the author published serially in 1981-83. It is the story of Holocaust survivors in New York in the early 1950s, and its narrator is Aaron Greidinger, forty-seven, a writer for the Forward who is just beginning to receive recognition for his stories and his Sunday radio talks. He finds himself inextricably involved with a group of refugees on the Upper West Side after Max Aberdam of Warsaw, a "ghost" whom he had long thought dead, walks into his newspaper office.

Aaron learns that Miriam, an attractive woman of twenty-seven who has survived the Nazi camps, is in love with sixty-seven-year-old Max. But she confesses to Aaron that she loves him as much as she loves Max, and has no intention of giving up either man. This strange situation has additional complications--Miriam has a young husband, and American poet she despises, and Max has a wife he will never divorce. Though Aaron upbraids himself for continuing to see Miriam, he cannot stop. He encounters colorful types--such as Miriam's rich lesbian employer; a steam of disturbed advice-seekers who come to his office; old flames like Stefa and Irka, and a new one, Tzlova; and Misha, landsman and anarchist taxi driver. But not until the trio of Max-Miriam-Aaron reunites in Tel Aviv (where Aaron receives his first literary prize) does he learn the full truth about Miriam's past.

While Meshugah seems to develop like a comedy, it is a serious and extraordinary novel. Co-translator Nili Wachtel says the author wanted to write a novel about a young woman simultaneously in love with an old and a middle-aged man--in Singer's words, "a strange situation, with lots of promise." The bizarre twists and turns of the story, as well as the unusual characters, confirm once more the author's reputation as a master storyteller.


 
   
 
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