The Slave, published in 1962, by Nobel Laureate, Isaac Bashevis Singer, is set against the events of 1648, when the Cossack leader Bogdan Chmielnitski led an uprising against the aristocratic leaders of Poland. Hundreds of thousands of Jews, caught between the rival armies, were slaughtered and enslaved. For Jacob, a Jew, and Wanda, a Christian, to fall in love in the wake of "The Great Catastrophe" was unthinkable to both their communities. From their story, Singer weaves his greatest novel of passion and devotion.
Jacob is a Jew, a pogrom survivor, and a slave of Polish peasants; he lives a simple life as a cowherd, tolerated only because of his skills with animals. Against both Jewish and secular law, he falls in love with Wanda, a Christian. Ransomed by his hometown, he flees with Wanda and begins a new life. But because conversion of Christians is against the law and Wanda (now called Sara) cannot speak Yiddish, she must pose as a mute. In the throes of labor, Wanda finally speaks, dies, and is buried as an outcast, outside the Jewish cemetery. Jacob picks up his son and emigrates to the Holy Land, not to return for 20 years. Except for a few references to specific historical events, this story, set in the late 17th century, is timeless. It is read in alternating sections by two highly competent narrators, Tracy Sallows and David Chandler. The transitions between readers are smooth and add interest to the presentation. Recommended for moderate to large audio fiction collections; a necessary purchase for all Jewish libraries with literature collections.-I. Pour-El, Des Moines Area Community Coll., Boone, IA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.