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The Family Moskat

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  1,338 ratings  ·  109 reviews
The vanished way of life of Eastern European Jews in the early part of the twentieth century is the subject of this extraordinary novel. All the strata of this complex society were populated by powerfully individual personalities, and the whole community pulsated with life and vitality. The affairs of the patriarchal Meshulam Moskat and the unworldly Asa Heshel Bannet prov ...more
Paperback, 624 pages
Published April 3rd 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1950)
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Average rating 4.19  · 
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 ·  1,338 ratings  ·  109 reviews

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Czarny Pies
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those with a strong background on Jewish life in the last decades of the Tsarist Empire
Isaac Bashevis Singer's "The Family Moskat" provides an extremely sophisticated portrait of Poland's Jews during the first four decades of the twentieth century. It presents however two serious problems. Asa Heshel the protagonist is a rather vile individual who perversely misreads Spinoza and has dreadful personal morals. A more serious problem however is that Singer makes no effort to help the reader unfamiliar with the cultural context. An American author assumes that his reader knows who Bri ...more
Lewis Weinstein
UPDATE 4/16/15 ... reading again


"The Family Moskat" has several slow spots, there are a confusing number of characters introduced but never really developed, and the story didn't really have much punch.

Having said that, "Moskat" is an exquisite presentation of a wide range of Polish Jews in a variety of economic, social, sexual and religious circumstances. There was never a doubt in my mind that Singer, who lived there, had got it right. And the last 100 pages or so achieved an emotion not
Lorenzo Berardi
Chronicles from a vanished world.

No one like Isaac Bashevis Singer is able to zoom on daily tiny details without losing focus on the whole plot and keeping your attention awake for more than 600 pages with no single moment of boredom or prolixity.

So far, I have never found a wide bunch of so realistic fictional characters: each of them is beyond evil or good simply behaving just like each of us do, sometimes in a selfish way, sometimes being selfless. Potential villains may show humanity and ten
Sep 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
By any standard, the word sweeping well suits Singer's novel "The Family Moskat." The novel spreads over almost a century of transformative history, ending at the outbreak of World War II, which will see before its end the entire civilization represented transformed into nothing but ash. Yet in the fashion of Tolstoy, Singer does not allow the great events he illustrates - WWI, the birth of modern Poland, the destruction of the Austria-Hungarian Empire, the 1917 Revolution, the rise of Zionism - ...more
Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma
I read to live and this book is full of life. Life is living, marriage, divorce, and death. In all these, there is one common denominator which is suffering. The Family Moskat literally talks about the Moskat family. Their names are very difficult but I will talk about them nonetheless.

Firstly, we have Asa, Haddassah, and Adele. Asa is a student who falls in love with Haddassah but marries Adele. The love becomes poisonous and they end up separating from each other. Asa joins the military durin
Richard Levine
Jun 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
A big fat novel - indeed, A Sweeping Multi-Generational Saga - from a writer known (at least to me) mostly for his short stories, The Family Moskat surprised me a little, but it was quite good. Singer takes us through the decline and fall of an extended Jewish family in Warsaw in the early part of the 20th century -- from the years before World War I until the outbreak of World War II. The world in which these characters have survived -- or even thrived, in the case of family patriarch Meshulam ...more
Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk
I liked this book a lot - a sort of Polish Jewish Forsythe Saga...
Bryan--Treasurer, Middlemarch Appreciation Society
3 1/2 stars

Although this oftentimes charming but ultimately tragic novel is certainly worthwhile, there's too much of the melodrama about it to think of it as truly memorable. The book traces the lives and loves of a Jewish family living in Warsaw, Poland, beginning shortly after the turn of the century, and ending in September of 1939. Singer does skirt around some deeper questions, some pertaining to specific Jewish beliefs, some just as pertinent to non-Jews, but in the end, this is primarily
Robin Kempf
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
I recognize that this is a masterpiece by IB Singer, but for me it was slow going. Singer traces the experiences of Jews in Poland from prior to World War I through the start of World War II. He also explores the liberalization of Judaism, the influence of Western philosophy, Zionism, and communism. There is a lot to chew over in all of this. The problem is, or the problem for me was, none of the characters are particularly sympathetic or nice. It’s much more like a soap opera, in that there are ...more
Isaac Bashevis Singer's THE FAMILY MOSKAT is a chronicle, documentary, and artifact- in story book form- of Jewish life in Poland from the beginning of the 20th century until World War II. His characters are lively and complex because he does not romanticize shtetl life. It is a refreshing contrast to overly sweet and moralistic Jewish fables about the "Old Country".

Thankfully, Singer was completely free from religious propaganda in describing Ashkenazi Jewish life- some women are trapped in unh
Scott Cox
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nobel-prize, fiction
"The Family Moskat" was the first English-translated novel by the Yiddish author Isaac Bashevis Singer. Polish born, son of a Hasidic rabbi, Singer vividly portrays Warsaw Jewish ghetto life. The characters are somewhat dissolute, not atypical of Singer’s writings. They also debate philosophical issues (Spinoza, etc.) and the importance of Zionism and the founding of Israel as a Jewish state; many Hasidic Jews felt that this was usurping the role of the coming Messiah. However ultimately this is ...more
Aug 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
I think this was the first book that I read by I.B. Singer and what a book. A sprawling multi-generational cast of characters in pre-Holocaust Warsaw, Poland live out their lives. And the bleak ending reminds us that all of that is about to be lost.
Harrison Wein
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This brutal book follows the downfall of a wealthy Jewish family in Poland from the turn of the 20th century until World War II. At its heart, it is about the deterioration of a culture. Thousands of years of tradition are yielding to new political, cultural, and social ideas. This book is extraordinary in its broad, meticulous depiction of a now-extinct Jewish community as it slowly falls apart. But it's a difficult read. Few of the large number of characters are well-drawn, and almost none are ...more
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a terrific book -- kind of like Middlemarch set in the Jewish community in Warsaw in the first half of the 20th Century, a tumultuous, ominous time to say the least. I compare it to Middlemarch because, like Eliot, I.B. Singer creates a complete world, complete with hundreds of major and minor characters, most memorable in their own way, and immerses you in their day-to-day lives. It's the kind of book where you look up that think, wait a minute, where am I? Where are the droshkeys? Wher ...more
Gill Schell
Sep 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.3* : This is a challenging read, to be expected from a Nobel Prize winner. The intellectual side of this amazing novel was way over my head but the depiction of Jewish life and traditions in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust makes for a fascinating read. The story describes the decline of a large Jewish family in the early 20th century and a way of life that has disappeared since. Lots of interesting characters people this book - it takes a while to understand who they are and their position ...more
MaryEllen Brown
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book now, I do not know the ending. However, one should also read The Wall by John Hersey which has been republished. From my understanding The Family Moskat takes place before WWII, The Wall follows with the Warsaw Ghetto after WWII. My continuing interest in people, cultures and ethnic groups leads me to books such as this. Nay sayers of fiction would discover feelings, bravery, cowardice, entire spectrum of human feelings.
Brian Cohen
Feb 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating account of a Polish family’s slow destruction from the 1900’s through the onset of WWII, primarily due to the death of their wealthy patriarch and WWI. Reading Singer is like running downhill, it’s hard to stop once you pick it up (even if it takes three months to actually finish). Now I know I like his epics as much as his short stories and smaller novels, regardless of subject matter.
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Damn. This book is amazing. Intimacy, searing criticism and tragedy of one Jewish family between the World Wars.
Oct 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a masterful sweeping saga...posterity is terrifying, and yet those who choose to have offspring, seem oblivious to the uncertainty presented by destiny.
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
read most of it, very long but excellent writing and descriptions
Bauchan Mann
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A big masterpiece
May 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Too long and negative. Not one happy family or character. It was interesting to read about the orthodox Jewish community and its traditions.
Nov 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Student Review: Alanna H.
The late 19th-early 20th century was a harrowing time for the Jewish people of Warsaw, Poland. Yet, the Moskat family endures. Meshulam Moskat, the family patriarch, controls his family with the iron fist of religion all the while becoming a major business man and accruing massive wealth. His family is large and complex, with seven children by different wives and numerous grand and great grandchildren. Any newcomers to the family must be approved by Meshulam. Asa Hershel
Jen Well-Steered
What I liked about it: Despite the tragedy and the doomed romance, some parts of the book are hilarious, like when a Hassidic bumpkin comes to the city in search of his wayward wife who longs for modernity and refuses to stay in her house because she lacks a mezuzah. When she offers to go out and buy one, he again refuses, because it needs to be inspected by a rabbi in case it contains spelling errors. In just a few sentences, you understand fully why the wife wanted out. A lot of the minor char ...more
'this is the bread of affliction which our forefathers ate in the Land of Egypt',, August 14, 2014

This review is from: The Family Moskat: A Novel (FSG Classics) (Paperback)
Compelling family saga set in the Jewish community of Warsaw. The novel opens in the years before WWI : the wealthy patriarch of the family has just returned from taking the waters, bringing with him a new wife - and a stepdaughter. There's much irritation among his children by his previous two wives; they are also unhappy a
Miriam Ruvinskis
Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
After reading 611 pages, I am still inside the thousand voices of all the Bashevis Singer characters. What a powerful book! So many issues, inside and outside of myself! And it seems that Bashevis Singer has great knowledge of the human soul. At moments I have been feeling so free, exhilarating, so Jewish and so inmortal!
And then, as Asa Heshel Bannet (one of the main characters) keeps wondering, his thinking, his excruciating trip in this world captured me totally. What are we?, what religion
Samuel Lubell
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: historical, jewish
There were far too many characters here. This is essentially a family saga about a rich Jew in Poland in the late 19th and early 20th century up to the Nazi invasion of Poland. The theme seems to be how the pious Jews were cheating on their wives and stealing from their business partners while the next generation lost even the pretense of being Orthodox in religion. But it kept jumping around from one set of characters to another.

It's rather depressing and took me a long time to get through. Al
Elwood D Pennypacker
Scandal! The scandal! What will people think! Everyone will talk!

Sounds familiar.

If I had read this before ever seeing Downton Abbey, I'd have said of Downton Abbey, "Oh this is like The Family Moskat, but about semi-assimilated Warsaw Jews instead of English aristocrats". Except instead of goodly Matthew Crawley however, Singer created Asa Heshel, a self-serving, self-centered lush who is nevertheless a ladies' man (his appeal must stem from his cruel indifference to the world and people around
Nov 30, 2011 rated it liked it
This was the first book I read by Isaac Bashevis Singer. The hustle and energy of pre-WWII Warsaw is described in vibrant detail but it seems that all the people in the extended Moskat family are unhappy. It was upsetting to read about unhappy marriages unraveling and the extra-marital affairs that the neighbors suspected and the cheated spouses resignedly accepted. The novel follows primarily Meshulam Moskat, the wealthy patriarch of the Moskat family, and Asa Heshel Bannet, from the Polish bac ...more
Gloria Mccracken
Nov 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Let me stipulate that Isaac Bashevis Singer is a great writer. I think he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. And sometimes I like what he writes. But not this time. I know this is a great novel. Written in 1950, it tells the story of a Polish Jewish family -- actually several related families -- during the time before the First World War up to just before the Nazi invasion of Poland. It describes through the lives of these people the world that existed before it was turned inside out and destro ...more
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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

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