This posthumous collection includes previously unpublished stories that mark the peak of Birstein's creativity, along with new versions of stories in A Drop of Silence. In this collection, Yossel Birstein is shown to be the master of the short story, a writer who gathers up slivers of life from the edges, as it were, of his own biography, illuminating the lives of ordinary people he encountered. He joins anecdote to anecdote, showing glimpses of his own past in the little Polish town of his childhood, his time in Australia, the kibbutz years, and others from the Jerusalem of today with all its personalities. The narrator in his stories listens to people, he is curious and has compassion and empathy for all human weaknesses, stressing the beauty and the poetry of everyday life, along with its humor and irony - mainly self-directed. The humorous view of the wandering storyteller assembles a collage from very different spheres and shows the present to be a reincarnated past, with the elements common to Israelis and to the shtetl Jews in Shalom Aleichem.
The miniatures that Birstein calls "dreams" form a significant part of the collection, a surrealistic, psychological genre in which the protagonist-narrator reveals his feelings of inferiority, his desires, his helplessness and his existential fears. In some stories Birstein examines the subject of death and even describes his own funeral: he is in the coffin but also walks behind it.
Even death itself was a matter of humor for one-of-a-kind raconteur Yossel Birstein. A new book captures the late storyteller's spirit.
He is one of the three leading writers in Israel, the summit of Israeli Jewish writers. I consider him more important than Agnon. He is no less complex, but much more of a master in the composition of the story, in the fascinating treatment of a story.
Critic Menahem Perry