Wandering with the Stars

January 18, 2012

After nearly four months, I finally finished reading Wandering Stars, a serial novel by Sholem Aleichem (1859-1916). Translated in unabridged form by Aliza Shevrin a hundred years after it was first published, the novel is slow-moving and wildly tangential but full of captivating characters, and it stole my heart in the last fifty pages. Here’s one of my favorite passages:

The wandering stars that have, as you know, been drifting toward each other without ever meeting have finally met. That was in America. But just met, nothing more! To really meet, to become one–that will never happen, never. Who is responsible for this, I or he? That I do not know. Possibly both of us. We both have made our share of mistakes during our lifetimes, though we hardly lived, hardly lived at all. Late, too late, the wandering stars met. No, dearest, apparently there is no happiness here on earth. There is only the striving toward happiness…

This book requires some commitment, to be sure, but its characters richly reward the reader’s efforts. At some future date, I think it will demand a second reading to produce a more complete review.

In the meantime, I’m re-reading Tony Kushner’s foreword and enjoying the opportunity to absorb literary analysis written by someone with a great deal more to contribute to the conversation than I would have.

If the heart of all diasporic tales of desire is desire for home, there’s a special, specific poignancy in averting the eyes at journey’s end […] It’s as if, after such a terribly long and bloody wait, obtaining the object of our desires has become almost impossible to vividly imagine, as if reunion with the loved and lost one has become almost unrepresentable, recognizable only in its elusiveness, in its receding and vanishing. […] Even those of the strongest faith must face an affliction of doubt and ask whether, for Leo and Rosa, for us, there will only ever be wandering.

Beautiful.

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