Shriven Selves; Religious Problems in Recent American Fiction

Shriven Selves; Religious Problems in Recent American Fiction

Shriven Selves; Religious Problems in Recent American Fiction

Shriven Selves; Religious Problems in Recent American Fiction

Excerpt

When the protagonist of Isaac Singer The Magician of Lublin, Yasha Mazur, steps into the street after his rich experiences of peace and refuge in the synagogue, he recognizes the separation of what he had experienced a moment ago from what he now sees before him. Worship and daily urban life seem to be not steps but oceans apart. The narrator says:

It now seemed to Yasha that the street and the synagogue denied each other. If one were true, then the other was certainly false. He understood that this was the voice of evil having its way, but the piety, which had consumed him as he stood in the prayer shawl and phylacteries in the prayer-house, began to cool now and evaporate.

Yasha's sense of the conflict between his personal, religious life and the public life of Warsaw is central to his problem. Throughout the work he suffers this conflict, and he resolves it at the end not by electing one side but by rejecting both in favor of a brick cell in which, freed from the tension, he can press forward to some realization of himself as an integrated person.

The problem Yasha Mazur feels to his bones and his drastic response to it constitute a difficulty and a strategy that mark the . . .

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