- Paperback: 342 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (April 1 1981)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374516243
- ISBN-13: 978-0374516246
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 381 g
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,432,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
A Crown of Feathers: Stories Paperback – Apr 1 1981
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About the Author
Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904–91) was the author of many novels, stories, and children's books. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978.
Top Customer Reviews
The stories had two qualities which I found highly enjoyable. Firstly, Singer's combination of modern realism with Jewish folklore and fantasy is what first got me hooked, as I myself am Jewish and have a great interest in our religion, folklore and mythology. Secondly, the simple, direct style in which the stories were written. It was as if Singer himself was sitting in front of me telling a story. The book certainly did not disapoint and I finished it in a matter of days. It was such an enthralling read, that I raided most the second-hand book shops in the neighbourhood for Singer books. Now I have quite a large Singer collection of both novels and short stories - all of them works of art in their own right. This collection of twenty-four stories is varied - ghost stories, fables set in little Polish-Jewish villages and stories set in pre-World War II Warsaw and post-World War II New York. Although most of the stories have a distinctly Jewish flavour, many of the themes, including love, lust, politics, greed and family life are universal. Some of the tales end in twists, which can often leave you surprised or spooked, not that this is a bad thing, of course.
My favourite stories are as follows: "A Crown Of Feathers" is a phantasmagoric tale of a young woman losing and then trying to regain her faith. It's full of witchcraft, sorcery and violent imagery and it might disturb the average reader on first reading, but it is a very moving and rewarding read. "Property" is an interesting look into the political theory of anarchism. "A Quotation From Klopstock" is a love story with a twist. "The Magazine" is all about holding on to dreams and aspirations and following them. These are just a few of the great stories included in this book. It is a shame that "A Crown Of Feathers and Other Stories" is now probably out of print, but have a look around for it, it will be well worth the search. I highly recommend this book.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com
“A Crown of Feathers,” one of the two-dozen tales in this book, is a good example. Akhsa’s parents died when she was quite young and she was raised by her grandparents, very observant and very wealthy Jews. When Akhsa was eighteen her grandfather sought to find her a husband. He was pleased with the men he selected, but his wife, Akhsa’s grandmother, saw flaws in each of them. Akhsa agreed with her grandmother. Her grandmother died and her grandfather insisted that she marry the next man he would chose. Her grandfather chose a poor leaned pious yeshiva student, Zemach, but Akhsa rejected him. He left and cursed her violently. Her grandfather died.
During the mourning period, she finds a New Testament and feels that what it says makes more sense to her than the Hebrew Bible. Her dead grandmother appears to her and tells her to go to the priest and do what he says. Her grandfather also appears and tries to persuade her not to listen to the ghost she thinks is her grandmother. Her grandmother proves the truth of what she is saying by miraculously making a crown of feather inside of her pillow. She goes to the priest who persuades her to convert. The local squire offers to marry her. He does so because he would be able to acquire the wealth she inherited from her grandparents. While he had the reputation of sleeping with any available woman, he promises Akhsa that he would be faithful to her. They marry; he squanders her money except for the jewels from her grandmother, and is unfaithful. Akhsa runs away and seeks to repent. She wants to find Zemach, apologize for how she treated him, and return to Judaism.
Without going into any more details, I will say that Akhsa encounters her grandmother and grandfather again, Zemach admits to Akhsa that he always loved her, a rabbi forces the couple to marry, and despite his love, Zemach never consummates the marriage and constantly berates his wife for converting and for being a whore. Why?
“The Cabalist of East Broadway” is another surreal tale in this collection that is fascinating and raises question. Singer states that he saw a man in New York, who was an obvious scholar well-versed in cabbalistic studies, a man who wrote much but published nothing. His friends and acquaintances in Israel urged him to come to Israel where he could live a good life and they would help him publish his books. The man was dressed in rags and had lost virtually all of his teeth. He would sit in a restaurant drinking coffee and eating prunes. He spoke to no one.
Then Singer sees him in Israel lecturing. He is dressed well. His teeth are fixed. He is loquacious. He has a wife who cares for him and helps him. But a short time later, when Singer visits the Brooklyn restaurant again, there he is sitting drinking coffee and eating prunes, wearing rags, and talking to no one. Why?
Yet still Bashevis Singer explores the age old questions; why are we here ? Is creation an accident; all chance with a strictly scientific base ? What is truth ? (As Bashevis Singer says; if it does exist it is as intricate and hidden as in a crown of feathers !)
The stand out story, for me, is 'Grandfather and Grandson' where an unworldly and god fearing old Jew, Reb Morecai Meir, takes in his grandson, a young socialist revolutionary who believes in political solutions-not divine-to bring justice to the people. It encapsulates all that Bashevis Singer is about. A wonderful story in a wonderful collection by a wonderful writer. Stories to read, absorb and enjoy and learn humanity from.