From the Publisher
“[Singer's] vision and imagination are stronger than ever, and whether one reads the book as a parable of modern civilization and its discontents or as unadulterated fantasy, one is indelibly transfixed.” Library Journal
“The strength of I. B. Singer's novel comes from the language, as it constantly undermines the flow of the narrative by infusing into the text - written in Yiddish and translated into English by the author - Polish words and phrases.” The New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The Nobel laureate's disappointing interpretation of primitive history, translated from the Yiddish by the author, depicts the transition of Poland from a a hunter-gatherer society to an agricultural land whose new rulers ``called themselves Poles because in their language pola meant field.'' This is not, as one might expect from Singer, a fanciful excursion into the realm of anthropological magic, charms and mysticism; rather, the earthbound characters spend much of their time raping, killing, acting out sexual perversions and tending to bodily functions. Women are paradoxically portrayed: when they are not being dragged off by their hair and addressing their men as deities, they are powerful, amazonlike specimens. The novel also suffers from an incongruous time frameat least one character calls her father ``Tatele,'' a Yiddish diminutive, and a Jewish cobbler from post-Talmudic Babylon and a Christian bishop somehow find themselves among the prehistoric Poles. This encounter allows Cybula, one in a succession of kings of the fields, to engage in simplistic philosophizing about the origins of the universe, god, the vicious cycle of human cruelties and the likethat is, when he isn't busy sleeping with both his wife and her mother. (October)
Long ago in the valley of the Vistula, the fierce but agrarian Poles brutally subjugate the Lesniks, a tribe of peace-loving hunters. Still, it is the Lesnik Cybula who eventually becomes ``The King of the Fields.'' What a brave new world this is for Singer. There is a lone Jew, the itinerant shoemaker Ben Dosa, but Singer's lovable shlemiels, diabolical dybbuks, and New York Yiddish writers are nowhere to be found. Though Ben Dosa introduces the Hebrew God, and a blond man on a white horse spreads word of the new Christian God, in the end Cybula turns to the God of Death. With this, his ninth novel, 84-year-old Singer may have lost his innocence, but his vision and imagination are stronger than ever, and whether one reads the book as a parable of modern civilization and its discontents or as unadulterated fantasy, one is indelibly transfixed. Marcia G. Fuchs, Guilford Free Lib., Ct.