The Seance

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Isaac Bashevis Singer
Penguin Books Ltd



Book Description
This new book of sixteen stories is his fourth collection, following Gimpel the Fool, The Spinoza of Market Street and Short Friday. Many readers will rank it with Mr. Singer’s best work.

The title story, an account of an old man who regularly visits an unconvincing medium on Central Park West, exemplifies what David Boroff calls Singer’s rare ability to “transmute metaphysical ideas into pure emotion.” “Getzel the Monkey” is the story of a moneylender who mimics the town’s richest man so successfully that he becomes like him to the point of tragedy. “Zeitl and Rickel,” the story of two women who wish to marry in the next world since they cannot do so in this one, contains the sentence, “Who can tell what goes on in another’s head?” The murderer who tells his story in “The Parrot” is driven to kill his mistress-wife because she takes out her unhappiness on their bird. “The Slaughterer” is a brilliant portrait of the progressive madness of a man persuaded against his nature to become a ritual slaughterer.

“The Brooch” is the story of a thief who is able to work at his profession only as long as he can rely on his wife’s probity and uprightness. “The Warehouse” recounts the bureaucratic snarl-ups that plague souls in the after-life. In “The Plagiarist” a rabbi defrauded by a young disciple is asked to pray for his recovery and when the man dies he resigns to perform penance in exile. “The Lecture,” a story set in modern Montreal, reveals the reason behind an old lady’s interest in a visiting author. “The Needle” tells how a mother in search of a wife for her son devises an infallible test for prospective brides. “The Dead Fiddler” is the story of a dybbuk that talks, sings and curses in the body of a young girl. “Yanda” and “Henne Fire” are character studies of, respectively, a goodhearted Polish slavey who is fated to work for other people all her life, and a demon-like woman who causes trouble for people even after death. “The Letter Writer,” one of the major stories in the collection, relates the world of the unseen to the harsh realities of lonely old age and sickness in an alien modern city. This and the companion stories prove the truth of Miss Hughes’ assertion: “Singer is a master story-teller, one of the very few who can faithfully re-create a time forever past and render it meaningful to a troubled present.”

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