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Satan in Goray
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Satan in Goray

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  874 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
As messianic zeal sweeps through medieval Poland, the Jews of Goray divide between those who, like the Rabbi, insist that no one can "force the end" and those who follow the messianic pretender Sabbatai Zevi. But as hysteria and depravity increase, it becomes clear that it is not the Messiah who has come to Goray.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published July 31st 1996 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1955)
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Bill  Kerwin
Dec 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: weird-fiction

In the wake of a pogrom, a 17th Century Jewish village in eastern Poland is further unsettled by a frantic enthusiasm for the Messiah from the east, Sabbatai Zevi.

This is a very strange book--more like an elaborate folk tale than a traditional novel. It is also very wise, and it shows with frightening clarity how a society of good people can be destroyed by great misery followed by desperate hope.
Aleksandar Janjic
May 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Већ сам одавно спикирао да прочитам ову књигу јер сам чуо да се у њој описују разноразне гадости, а све то у стивенкинговском амбијенту маленог градића, с тим да није баш стивенкинговски амбијент пошто је у питању јеврејски градић у Пољској средином 17. вијека. Лијепа ствар у свему овоме је што је аутор ове књиге нобеловац Исак Б. Сингер, што ову књигу по аутоматизму чини умјетничким дјелом, тако да би свако ко би нешто приговорио њеном "дискутабилном" садржају могао исте секунде да буде проглаш ...more
Jan 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
che grande scrittore singer- ti prende e ti trascina in un paesino della polonia nel diciassettesimo secolo, tra rabbini rigorosi, seguaci di un falso messia, profetesse, dibbuk, abissi di degradazione ed eccessi di ogni tipo. satana a goray, romanzo d'esordio dello scrittore, è un libro vorticoso e profondo sul bisogno che l'uomo ha della fede, sugli ingannevolezza delle apparenze e sulla necessità disperata di arginare la confusione dovuta all'ignoto. bellissimo romanzo, bellissimo affresco su ...more
Jul 31, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Posto tra Biłgoraj e Lublino, Zamość e Sandomierz, Goraj è oggi poco più di un villaggio, un paese di poco meno 4500 abitanti. Una florida comunità ebraica un tempo l’animava. Cosa resta della presenza e della vitalità ebraica di un tempo? Sì e no il ricordo, forse. Ma ben prima di Hitler e delle sue Schutzstaffel, a sradicare i figli di Abramo da quel villaggio sperduto tra le colline Roztocze, ci aveva provato l’atman Bogdan Khmelnitsky e i suoi cosacchi. Iniziata nel 1648 come rivolta dei cos ...more
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a book to read for its colorful depiction of attitudes and beliefs and mythology among Eastern European Jewry, and its exploration of a town gone mad with religious enthusiasm for a lie. The plotting is amateur, but more or less beside the point.

Singer's subject is the time of Shabbtai Zvi, the great false messiah, and the enthusiasm for him that swept European Jewry circa 1648 after the Chmelnicki massacres, as reflected in the experiences of one little town called Goray, in southeaste
Apr 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Lovely historical novel about how the Jewish community in a small village in the outskirts of Poland fell prey to religious madness and the Sabbatai Zvi-sect during the aftermath of the Chmelnicki massacres. The writing is good (or at least my translation was), the subject matter itself is interesting & the story is wonderfully told. The moral is very interesting albeit debatable, being that people should not try to coerce god into bringing forth the end of the or salvation in this case even ...more
Dec 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Satan in Goray takes place in a Jewish village in 17th century Poland during the time of the pogroms. It is a tale: full of dark miracles and strange winds that blow in rumors and demons and turbulence. I did not enjoy reading this book, but I found it helpful in understanding both the medieval mindset, and also the vulnerability to deception which a people who have been persecuted might be prone to. Singer's bottom line message is that humans get into big trouble when they try to manipulate God ...more
Dec 17, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Modernist trappings mar but don't destroy this excellent depiction of religious memetic fervor in still-medieval middle Europe, the highpoint of which is a brilliant, terrifying demonic possession scene. I'm tempted to say that the devil really is in the details.
James M
Dec 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: x-poland
In medieval Poland, Jewish society splits into; one follows a rabbi, the other, a false messiah.
Aug 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish, adult
Very dark but so compelling. Reminded me of Dostoevsky with all the holy lunatics and criminals.
Bob Newman
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Literature as Anthropology

When times are desperate as they have been in many eras and many places, people tend to resort to desperate measures. They cast their lot with prophets, dreamers, and seers who foretell a bright future--the coming of the millenium, it is often called----when all problems shall be solved, the rough made plain, the poor made rich, and sick shall be healed. Movements develop. They may die away in time or they may thrive and create great civilizations. Western civilization,
El Rey De Francia
'Satan in Goray' is Isaac Bashevis Singer's haunting first novel dealing with the Sabbatean movement of 17th century. But the history of the famous false messiah itself is not the core of the novel but rather it's impact on a distant and closed jewish community of Goray in rural Rzeczpospolita.
The author shows splendid knowledge of social psychology and the dynamics of the small group.
The novel shows the utmost vulnerability of such a distant albeit pious community in the face of total madness
Emma Probst
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I thought this story was really interesting and it taught me about Sabbatai Zevi who I didn't know about before. Also, I thought the dybbuk parts were fascinating along with elements of folklore and tradition that I didn't know about before. The book seemed to have conflicting story details sometimes and a weird structure that couldn't decide who or what was the focus of the novel. I think it is an interesting story and worth reading all the same.
Rachael Rose
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very engaging and beautifully translated. It's a shame we do not know who the translator is.
Jack Luminous
Lepsze od "Sztumistrza z Lublina"
Allyson Shaw
Dec 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dark and strange- a meditation on 17th century apocalyptic fervour, like a Bruegel painting transmuted to Bosch, but in novel form.
Jan 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
When I finished this book I did not - nor do I now - know quite what to think. It is a tale about desperation, fervor, and false hope. One thing that made this novel so striking - to me at least - was the abrupt change in tone for the last two chapters. Most of the prose is narrated by a cool and detached voice that knows nearly all the goings-on in Goray, but has limited access to the characters' own minds. The reader remains at a distance from even the main characters. I was almost tempted to ...more
Tipsy Pixy
Jun 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book. It gives the reader a good view of the lives of the European Jews in the early 17th century. I think the title is slightly misleading, but good enough. The way it is written makes it obvious that it was an oral story and in another language. At times you wonder why it jumps around so much, but keeping this in mind gets you through it. The last few chapters make you not want to put it down! I loved this novel and love how the 'fall of man' happens in this novel. One thin ...more
Lorenzo Berardi
Isaac B. Singer's typewriter worked as a time machine.

Seventeenth century, Poland.

an extremely believable choral portrait of superstitious dwellers in a Jewish shtetl in the middle of nowhere.

-horns and drums-
the Messiah (he will show up himself).

being the first novel Singer ever wrote (he was still in Poland at that time), there are just some minor details in style he would have written in a better way in the following years.

this is what
May 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Satan in Goray paints a vivid and mystical picture of Jewish rural life in the Poland of the 17th century, in a style far removed from the politicised drivel that one is often confronted with today.

The citizens of Goray are confronted with anti-semitic dangers, religious fervor and false messianism in tale that sharply analyses the processes of mass hysteria and apocalyptic thinking. All of this is set against a background highly charged with folklore and magic, making it particularly appealing
Andrew Pessin
Jul 15, 2011 rated it liked it
went in with high expectations, was kind of disappointed -- good parts detailing life in a small shtetl during the 17th century time of the false messiah sabbatai zevi, but overall the book had a rather disjointed structure i didn't love, and chose to be realistic where it should have been fanciful -- eg treated demons as real rather than as products of villagers' superstitions, which I found annoying ....
Oct 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Both an accomplished historical recreation and a darkly magical conjuring of the heights and depths of religious exaltation and despair, centered around a deeply sympathetic (though hardly uncritical) empathy for the always precarious life of 17th century Polish Jewry. Singer excels with moments of startling descriptive beauty and in the well judged ambiguity in his use of the imagery and atmosphere of folk tales and the supernatural.
John Jackson
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, but certain parts were very slow. The village itself really come to life with the descriptions of each character. If you read this book for no other reason, the final chapter will stay with you. It predates The Exorcist and shows a really graphic attempt at an exorcism taking place, really detailed and really well written. The book itself is a really quick read that you could easily finish in a weekend.
Jul 14, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Not sure what I didn't like about this or content. I had it built up to be fairly disturbing and it fell very short of that. Some dark territory but not all that much. The Folk tale style was also slightly tiring after a while. Could have gone with 2.5 stars if the option was there but truth be told I had to force myself through to the end of this one. (Sorry Isaac, you seem like such an interesting fellow I will promise to read more of your work) There now I feel better.
Sep 11, 2010 rated it liked it
I'm sure this book is brilliant, Singer is a genius, and I understand the historical backdrop against which Singer was writing...but I've got to admit I didn't really enjoy it. I suspect that this is a personal problem on my part -- I think I simply don't like folktale-like novels. Goray is also a bit disjointed, and I think for that reason, too, it didn't do much for me.
Nikolay Nikiforov
Nov 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
A book about religious madness that in the last two chapters changes its narrative voice into that of someone religiously mad: this is an interesting experiment in how the superstitious mind distorts reality.
This is not a book about Sabbatai Zevi — just as Babel's Red Cavalry is not a book about Lenin.
Zoran Zelenika
Aug 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
Some good descriptions but I generally did not enjoy the style this book is written in. The tale itself is about superstitions and paranoias of religious folk in dark times - mixed with some quasi-folk tale sections. Overall it provided too little of interest to me - characters were quickly built up then abandoned and the story mumbled along to a not too interesting end.
Brent Robins
Nov 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Singer is an amazing storyteller, and one of the best writers ever. This book never had a dull page. He really brings alive the lifestyle of the shtetl. I plan to read a few more of his novels. I do not know if there has ever been another writer who can write more vividly about traditional Jewish life.
Jul 15, 2014 rated it liked it
i love IBS's short fiction, inhale it even. But it took me a long time to read this (pretty short) novel. Not as smooth or humorous as other Singer I have read. Definitely has some of his trademark blend of modernism with folklore. But pretty bleak. Has a few priceless moments though. I expect I will want to re-read at some point.
Jun 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
I liked that the antagonists were those that studied Kaballah and were not "learned"people. I disliked the very end when the author explained the moral of the story-I felt slightly insulted as a reader.Over all an excellent book.
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Isaac Bashevis Singer was a Polish American author of Jewish descent, noted for his short stories. He was one of the leading figures in the Yiddish literary movement, and received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978.
His memoir, "A Day Of Pleasure: Stories of a Boy Growing Up in Warsaw", won the U.S. National Book Award in Children's Literature in 1970, while his collection "A Crown of Feathers
More about Isaac Bashevis Singer...

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“In the year 1648, the wicked Ukrainian hetman, Bogdan Chmelnicki, and his followers besieged the city of Zamosć but could not take it, because it was strongly fortified; the rebelling haidamak peasants moved on to spread havoc in Tomaszów, Bilgoraj, Kraśnik, Turbin, Frampol - and in Goray, too, the town that lay in the midst of the hills at the end of the world.” 0 likes
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