Magazine article The Spectator

A Quest with Excursions

Magazine article The Spectator

A Quest with Excursions

Article excerpt

The plan of this curiously heavy book (it weighs in at an extra half-pound or so for its length) may fascinate some while irritating others. In the alternately written chapters, each author pursues what often feels like a separate tale. Lichtenstein's is an interesting, simply and clearly written and often moving story of a developing quest. Its main elements are her tracing of her half-Jewish family's roots in Poland, its migration to London early this century, life in the Jewish East End and her increasing knowledge of and attachment to Jewish traditions and culture. Though her quest, which encompasses Poland and Israel as well as London, is hardly a novel one, it makes a compelling account of events that will always require to be known and borne in mind, so long as the fight goes on against our insane and terrifying destructiveness. That quest is carried out by an artist, a young woman, and that she discovers during it that she is pregnant adds an intensity to the telling.

Sinclair's part is both a commentary on Lichtenstein's quest and a series of sometimes extensive excursions into East End history and numerous other topics. His style of writing contrasts with Lichenstein's. She writes like this:

For the first time I realised that maybe it was the sister who had been the real genius. She might have collected all the books, been the true linguist. Certainly the notebooks found in the room were written by David.

He writes like this:

We projected onto the room all the cobwebby lumber of years, fascinated by the labyrinthine mysteries of Prague, the fictions of Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, H. …

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