Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Written two decades ago and first published in English early last year, this culturally rich but oddly uninvolving novel by the late Nobel laureate focuses on the existential dilemma of a Jewish man in 1906 Warsaw. (Apr.)
Shady Max Barabander, a Polish Jew, forsakes his adopted home of Argentina after his teenage son suddenly dies and his wife loses interest in living. He goes back to Poland, ostensibly to visit the graves of his parents. Instead, he finds companionship in the criminal underworld of Warsaw. Max seeks out women for his sexual salvation and to escape the constant fear he has of imprisonment and isolation. He becomes involved with a prostitute, a baker's wife, and a rabbi's daughter and others who see him as a means of escaping the legal and societal subjugation they experience in the Poland of 1906. Max deceives them all, and his deceptions--which reflect his spiritual anarchy--lead to violence. That Singer is a master storyteller is evident in this compelling--and quite modern--tale. Although not on par with his greatest works--e.g., Family Moskat , The Slave --this is a striking novel nevertheless, full of memorable characters sketched with great artistry. Highly recommended for most libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/90.--Paul Kaplan, Dakota Cty. Lib. System, Apple Valley, Minn.
The New York Times Michiko Kakutani
Mr. Singer displays his usual verve for storytelling. His energetic prose, his exuberant imagination, his ability to make familiar plots yield an endless supply of new twists all are joyously undiminished.
The New York Times Bette Pesetsky
The plot of 'Scum' is simple, but Mr. Singer twists it until its vision is new and unexpected.