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Salutin, Rick.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1988. 296pp. cloth, $24.95. ISBN 0-7710-7944-3. CIP

Reviewed by L. Maingon

Volume 17 Number 1
1989 January

"The book of Oskar," as the narrator refers to A Man of Little Faith, is about a "prophet." as Oskar is called by his friends. It is a biblical book about a German Jew stripped of his German identity in the Kristallnacht and alienated by the packaged North American and Zionist interpretations of Jewishness. Oskar's self-doubts and failures, which are epitomized by his obsessive masturbation, are the result of his inability to connect with his fellow men.

In Oskar, Salutin creates one of the most lovable and extraordinary characters in Canadian literature. Oskar's ironic position as a Jewish religious educator at the "Pillar of Fire." known to Oskar as "The Pill on The Mill," is understandable only when we note that his teachings are always iconoclastic.

Thus, when Oskar goes to Israel, the reader is faced with two versions of Oskar's trip. The first is a pastoral idyll of the trip Oskar took as a young Jewish leader in the Zionist movement before the outbreak of World War II. He marvels at everything in his homeland, in Palestine, and truly admires, befriends and loves the Palestinians. Upon his return in the mid-1970ís, Oskar is disillusioned when he is confronted with the disintegration of the pluralist society, which was the dream of Ben Gurion and the kibbutzim movement. It is now replaced by a state in which identity is established by birth and conformity to ideological values of power and dogmatism. This realization contributes to the freeing of Oskar and his ultimate prophetic redemption.

L. Maingon, University of Western Ontario, London, Ont.
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