Shadows On The Hudson Paperback – Jan 25 1999
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Although Isaac Bashevis Singer emigrated from Poland to the United States in 1935, the circumscribed world of the Polish Jews remained at the heart of his imagination. Beginning with his first major work, Satan in Goray (1935), he used the life of the shtetl as raw material, transforming its folkways, religious practices, superstitions, and sexual habits into superior works of art. From time to time, however, Singer turned his eye upon New World Jews like himself, recording their rapid or reluctant assimilation into the American mainstream. One such book is Shadows on the Hudson.
This massive novel originally was serialized in the Yiddish-language Jewish Daily Forward in 1957. Now it has finally been translated into English--in a capable version by Joseph Sherman--and Singer fans should be very grateful. Center stage is occupied by Boris Makaver, a master builder equally devoted to I-beams and the Talmud, and Anna, his much-married daughter. Fanning out from this duo, however, is a small universe of refugees, all of them served up with Singer's customary brio. (Here's a comical snapshot of a shyster named Hertz Grein: "His nose had a Jewish hook, but then had second thoughts and straightened itself out. His lips were thin, and his blue eyes revealed a curious mixture of bashfulness, sharpness, and something else that was hard to define. Margolin used to say that he looked like a Yeshiva boy from Scandinavia.") As the subplots pile up in an unruly heap, the novel sometimes reveals its installment-plan origins. Still, Singer puts his large cast through some wonderful paces, and the endless talk--for these are characters who truly come alive through the medium of rapid, contentious, Yiddish-accented conversation--allows the author to speculate about destiny, identity, and freedom without slowing his story a whit. As Singer said more than once, "Of course I believe in free will. Do we have a choice?" --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
Originally published serially in Yiddish in The Forward, this novel by Nobel Prize laureate Singer relates the lives of Jewish refugees in New York City just after World War II. Wealthy and religious Boris Makaver is challenged by the scandal created when his daughter Anna abandons her second husband, an unemployed lawyer, for a friend of the family, Grein. The latter is torn by his inability to resist the romantic demands of three women (his wife, his long-time mistress, and Anna) and his attempts to return to the religious faith of his father. The lingering effects of the losses in the Holocaust and the influence of communism and godlessness combine with staged seances and the reappearance of Anna's unsavory first husband to provide much spiritual searching. This major novel is a welcome addition to the Singer library. Recommended for public and academic libraries.
-?Ann Irvine, Silver Spring Lib., Md.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
The actors are good but they are overwrought - especially Julie Harris. She's not helped by the fact that almost every woman character declares imminent destruction without Grein coming to her rescue. Yet by the end when she says "Grein, if you don't come out I'm going to DIIIIEEEEEEEEE" for the 234th time if you're counting, you WISH that one of these characters would die.
This is one of Singer's EPIC books - meaning that he's writing about one family going away from Judaism, coming back to Judaism, having affairs. Only it's pretty standard fare. He's done it in early 19th century Poland with the Family Moskat. He did it again in late 19th century Poland with The Manor/The Estate (really one book) and now he's doing it in 1946 America. While you might enjoy some of this material - this is one where the narration serves to kill whatever value is in the story - and there's not much there. Maybe it suffers from the serialization. Singer had to repeat himself to keep his readers up to speed. So a character describing a scene that happened 300 pages ago (or 5 tapes back) is going to sound tedious because that character will provide no new insight.
My advice is to read either Satan in Goray or The Estate and the Manor together if you like Singer. Let us all forget about this awful clunker of a book - print or audio.
This sprawling book isn't sprawling because there's anything particularly deep or profound in its pages. Nothing much happens to the characters either. Instead it's sprawling in the same sense as Urban Sprawl. Singer allows his characters to whine incessantly about their lousy lot in life. Like The Estate (a much better book by far) his characters are great thinkers in many ways but utterly clueless about their own pettiness. They complain. They contemplate suicide. THey think deep thoughts about everyone around. They keep contemplating suicide long after the reader wants them dead and buried because then at least there'd be one less whiner.
The opening chapters have Anna and Grein running off together and forsaking their spouses. Pretty soon you realize that you are trapped with these two vindictive shrews and boredom sets in. Sadly after boredom comes nothing more than more boredom. Anna is superficial. Grein is a weakling. And on and on and on it goes. When other characters finally come into the frame you find them almost as tedious. They have been infected with the same malaise.
The one bright spot is Anna's first husband - a German comedian that came to America via Communist Russia and long thought dead. As soon as he enters the book you breathe a sigh of relief because at least this character is self-deprecating and able to laugh at himself. Unfortunately he disappears again in favor of an awful fake seance and he comes back rarely. The rest of the characters hate him with good reason - he's too good for them.
Most recent customer reviews
While procrastinating over an essay that needed writing, I once reached for the nearest book on the library shelf. Read morePublished on Nov. 14 2003 by Benjamin c. Richards
This book is an absolute masterpiece that clearly illustrates the genius of Isaac Bashevis Singer. Don't worry about the length - it's so absorbing and it has so much to say that... Read morePublished on Feb. 12 2002
I'm confused by the reviews complaining about this book's length, its subject matter, pace, characterization, etc. Read morePublished on Jan. 29 2002 by Linda K. Crawford
This is not an easy reading book, is interesting in some parts and very boring in others, some part of the story could be real and some parts nobody will believe it, I think that... Read morePublished on Jan. 11 2002 by Jorge Frid
There is not much more to say. Buy it. It is worth every penny. IBS is a genius of story telling. You will never forget this book.Published on Sept. 16 2000
Many have speculated why Singer left this novel untranslated into English for almost 40 years. Once you are into it, you will know why: this is the darkest thing he ever wrote. Read morePublished on Aug. 14 2000 by R. W. Rasband
Shadows on the Hudson is one of the best novels I've ever read. The people are real--and thank god, they're deeply sexual and deeply intelligent. Read morePublished on June 2 2000 by Amazon Customer
Although I agree with the criticisms made by other readers, I still loved "Shadows On The Hudson and consider it a worthwhile and engrossing book. Read morePublished on Feb. 11 2000 by rachel s. levy