The Centaur in the Garden

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Overview

Named one of the 100 best Jewish works of the twentieth century by the National Yiddish Book Center, The Centaur in the Garden is reminiscent of the Chagall paintings in which scenes of everyday Jewish life are tenderly and oddly transmuted into fantasy. Set in southern Brazil, in one of the immigrant colonies established early in the twentieth century, it chronicles the struggles of a Jewish farming family who find their lives further complicated when their youngest son, Guedali, is inexplicably born a centaur. ...

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Overview

Named one of the 100 best Jewish works of the twentieth century by the National Yiddish Book Center, The Centaur in the Garden is reminiscent of the Chagall paintings in which scenes of everyday Jewish life are tenderly and oddly transmuted into fantasy. Set in southern Brazil, in one of the immigrant colonies established early in the twentieth century, it chronicles the struggles of a Jewish farming family who find their lives further complicated when their youngest son, Guedali, is inexplicably born a centaur. For Scliar this dislocation was emblematic of being Jewish in Brazil, even in 1980 when he first published O Centaur no jardim. Through progressive life stages and ribald adventures the young Guedali embraces, assimilates, questions, and eventually discovers his actual identity.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780896727304
  • Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/2011
  • Series: THE AMERICAS Series
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,288,119
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Before his death in 2011, Brazilian-born physician Moacyr Scliar had published more than seventy books and 120 stories. His works have been translated into more than a dozen languages; some have been adapted for film, television, and theater.

Margaret A. Neves has translated the works of Brazilian novelists Jorge Amado, Oswaldo Franca, Antonio Torres, Lygia Fagundes Telles, and others.Ilan Stavans is author of On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language and editor of The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2004

    'Everything Is All Right Now'

    Written in the tradition of magic realism,'The Centaur in the Garden'is a fable in which mythic creatures, half horse, half human,(the centaur),and half woman, half lion,(the sphinx), play leading roles. Guedali Tartakovsky, fourth child of Leon Tartakovsky, a Jew brought over from Russia by Baron Hirsh early in the 20th century to farm in a remote area of Brazil, is born a centaur, a human with the lower body of a horse. The family is horrified. His mother goes into a deep depression, but Leon is determined to bring up his son as a Jew. He persuades a mohel,( a Jew trained to do circumcisions under the guidelines of Jewish tradition)to circumcise the boy. Similarly, when Guedali reaches thirteen, Leon holds a Bar Mitzvah for him in the family home. At maturity, Guedali becomes restless and runs away, joining a circus where the lady lion-tamer falls in love with him. He escapes from her and meets Tita, a female centaur, who has been brought up by an eccentric millionaire. Guedali and Tita travel to Morocco where a famous surgeon transforms them into human beings. They still retain their hooves which they conceal with specially made boots. Returning to Brazil, they join city society. Guedali becomes rich, but Tita longs for her former life.When she falls in love with a young centaur later killed by their condominium police, Guedali flees to the countryside where he seeks to return to his roots. Transcendental questions bother him. 'Had Guedali,the centaur boy, been happy? Happier than the biped adult?' He experiences nostalgia. 'My tail and hooves were mine as my ego and id', he realizes. Sometimes,when he is nervous,he beats his foot against the ground in the manner of a horse beating his hoof. 'Why the uncontrollable itch to gallop?' he asks himself. This strange tale compares the loss of the horse's body to the process of assimilation undergone by many Jews. It posits the thesis that by discarding their mother tongue, Yiddish, and their customs, Jews lose their essential being. The story ends with Guedali writing in large letters,'Everything is All Right Now'. 'We're just like everyone else', he thinks,but 'his private horses still gallop within', revealing his inner conflict.

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