The Centaur in the Garden Paperback – Sep 1 2011
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
About the Author
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The novel's hero thus enters the world marked as an outsider. As his life unfolds, we see his quest to educate himself, to embrace his Jewish identity, to experience sex, to find love, and ultimately to determine his place in the world. Along the way are many stunning surprises--for both Guedali and the reader.
"Centaur" seems to me to exemplify the concept of "magical realism." The book deftly blends elements of fantasy, science fiction, and social satire. Scliar explores many types of relationship: between European and Native American, Jew and Gentile, man and woman, parent and child. This is a deeply moving, truly brilliant novel by one of the most extraordinary voices in Latin American literature.
It would be unfair to go beyond the description of the novel. So, I will start with the main character, Guedali Tartakowsky, who is a centaur born into a normal Jewish family. Amazingly, his family tries everything so that he fits into their small community. There are clashes with other people as Guedali wants to escape the safety of his family to meet others. It may seem a little mystical and ridiculous. But, Guedali is not so unlike everyone else who must find himself by living on his own. Many of the qualities in Guedali shows how much more human than us. He may have hooves but his emotions and longing to be accepted and thoughts about growing up normal.
Our reaction to deformities resonates strongly in today's society. If we could change things like remove a large mold, then would it significantly change our life for the better? In most cases, the answer is yes and who knows if the mold was malignant. But, what if it is not so bad and everyone around doesn't mind it. Would you risk changing it for other people who feel uncomfortable? That may be a complete simplification of Guedali's problem but you see where I am going...
So many issues are addressed about knowing yourself. What makes you happy? How do you deal with matters of your identity as a Jew? Who are really your friends or enemies? How does society deal with such deformities? Do other people with this deformity handle daily situations? Scliar deals with all of these issues with a good balance between humor and seriousness. This version is a good translation and no real problems in reading this English print.
A Jewish Centaur, what could be more of an outsider. Even though he tries to be a Jew (he is circumcised and bar mitvah-ed); but because he has four hooves (duh!) he is ashamed of what he is. Running away from home and joining the circus and becoming a star is one way of using his 'uniqueness'. But after a while he has to leave because he tries to be like everyone else, and that can't be allowed. He meets a female centaur and they develop a sympathetic relationship. Who else but another centaur can understand what they are going through?
But because he is jewish and she isn't (he wants her to convert) they can't have a full relationship. Face it, even among the outsiders, you have to conform to be accepted. After they have operations to make them bipedal, they still are different because they still have one set of hooves which they hide from the world. Eventually they move into a gated community where they and their friends create their own world. But he is not happy, he wants to be a centaur again. In the end he realizes that he is the same person on the inside and that the rest is just cosmetic.
The power of this story, and the translation is done beautifully, is the 'normalness' the Skleer brings to life. (I mean except for the centaur thing.) A marvelous story of the power of love and the ability of all people and things to find their place in the world if they only look inside themselves.