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A. M. Klein.
Edited by M. W. Steinberg.

Toronto, University of Toronto Press, c1983.
338pp, paper, $35.00 (cloth), $14.50 (paper).
ISBN 0-8020-5598-2 (cloth), 0-8020-6469-8 (paper).

Grades 11 and up.
Reviewed by Tony Cosier.

Volume 12 Number 1
1984 January

This collection should become the most widely accepted product of the recent academically-sponsored Klein revival. None of the stories in this sturdy volume has received wide circulation previously. Several were published in magazines such as The Judaean and The Canadian Jewish Chronicle; some were printed under the pseudonym of Ben Kalonymos; s6me have never been previously published.

A roughly chronological arrangement enables the reader to mark the development of Klein's fiction from his precocious youth through his professional years into his brooding retirement. The text is carefully edited. The notes are helpful.

Several of the stories are Jewish in flavour, though Klein balances the characteristic features of the traditional Jewish tale with his own brand of lyricism and sentiment. Likewise, Klein's forays into politics, academe, and the law are handled with idiosyncratic wit.

In his most profound theme, the torment of sensitive people out of step with society, we sense Klein coming closest to his own heart. Several emphatic endings catch this memorably: we see Simeon the half-wit as a "long-bearded Jew staggering down the street, his tatters playing behind him in the spring wind"; we see proud Reb Zelman shamed by buffoons who clip his beard; we hear the weeping of Shmelka after a family's cruel joke. "The Meed of the Minnesinger" brings this theme in line with two of Klein's major concerns: the role of the poet and the persecution of the Jews.

The final story in the book is the longest and best. Klein gives a convincing portrait of Vladimir Terpetoff, a composer whose gifts set him at odds with the demands of Stalinist Russia. His story progresses with inevitability and lyric power. The point of view is deftly handled. The ending is excellent. "The Bells of Sobor Spasitula" is as powerful in its statement as Klein's fine novel, The Second Scroll. This will be a major addition to any library.

Tony Cosier, Confederation H. S., Nepean, ON.
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