This first novel is a fantastic-lyrical family saga set in Argentina at the turn of the century, beginning when two Jewish families from Eastern Europe emigrate to Buenos Aires and the rural Mar de Oro. Of the story’s two branches, the first is the family of Leon and Ida Gidekel. Worn down by time and the demands of living, Leon abandons his dream to be a great singer and passes his ambition to his nine children, buying a piano for each. Ida tries to draw the line when Leon brings a piano for two-year-old Salomon. "Even Mozart began at three," she says. But Leon replies: "Mozart was not a Jew."
The other branch is Isaac and Fanny Gurman`s family, which eventually links with the first when their offspring marry. The story depicts the alienation of the East European Jews in South America, and the connection of these Jews to the emerging national center in Israel. Each of the sixty characters has a distinct shape and color, from the wild, raucous children of the Pampas to Bengo`s half-caste son and the half-Indian Regalo, who moves to Palestine.
The story is told through family letters, written against the historical background of the early days of political Zionism, Baron Hirsch`s support for a Jewish colony in Argentina, the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War.
Is this really a first novel? Everything is here: stunning verbal wealth, and experience rich in color, sound and taste.
Critic Yehudit Orian
I am amazed at the rare epic sweep of Avigur-Rotem’s writing.
Author Batya Gur
English translation available (for publishers only)