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The Magician of Lublin

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  2,703 ratings  ·  165 reviews
Yasha the magician - sword swallower, fire eater, acrobat and master of escape - is famed for his extraordinary Houdini-like skills. Half Jewish, half Gentile, a free thinker who slips easily between worlds, Yasha has an observant wife, a loyal assistant who travels with him and a woman in every town. Now though, his exploits are catching up with him, and he is tempted to ...more
Paperback, Penguin Modern Classics, 208 pages
Published 1979 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published April 18th 1959)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,703 ratings  ·  165 reviews

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Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How lucky I am only to be reading Singer now, with some nine or ten of his novels still before me. The Magician of Lublin is my third. I feel somehow blessed.

I've come across a theme shared here with another Singer novel, Enemies: A Love Story. In that later book the protagonist, Herman Broder, is torn between three women. A Holocaust survivor, Broder has lost all belief in God. He finds a reason for living in each of the three women. The rest of his life is one long panic attack. The wife he h
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adventure, modern-lit
I'm missing something here. I had absolutely no empathy with or sympathy for the main character, I have no picture of him in my head, I didn't believe in him, I didn't understand him. I didn't care about him or any of those around him.

My conclusion is that this is not well written. It paints a rich picture of the Poland of the period; though I have no idea if it is historically accurate, it was at least interesting. That seems to be the strength of the author and the point of his work. In this
Sep 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2020, borrowed
I have just spent a long weekend with my parents, and having finished the two books I brought with me, I picked this out from one of their many shelves, as Singer is a Nobel prizewinner that I had never read. I suspect that they picked up this 1980 Penguin edition after seeing the film version that the cover photo is taken from - I have never seen the film so had no preconceptions.

I found the first half of the book a little dull, perhaps because the main protagonist is not easy to like - Yasha i
Apr 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
No prettying things up in this book- it's pretty raw and bleak. As they say "Like a dash of cold water"! It is about a manipulative and deceitful magician's struggle with his evil side. This book should be depressing, but you are glad you survived, in whatever condition. I say "you", and not the protagonist because the writing is so good that, oddly enough, you identify so strongly with the main character that you feel like you lived this book! ...more
The Magician of Lublin paints an extraordinary picture of Warsaw at the turn of the century while examining issues related to Jewish faith and identity.


4 stars
Aug 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So, when you're a lout, a layabout, adulterer and all-around rotten egg sinner, what do you do for penance? Well, if you're Yasha, the Magician of Lublin, you do something pretty out of the ordinary and realize that, as you're skimming through life thinking your behavior isn't affecting anyone, better think again.

I'm not sure, however, that Singer wrote this book as a parable on unintended consequences, though that's certainly a large take-away from this story.

So many of us go through life inter
Oct 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
Story of a "sinful" man, Yasha Mazur, a magician-acrobat that leads a senseless live, has next to a wife a mistress in every city. The framework: the Russian-occupied piece of Poland, in the last quarter of the 19th century, and specifically the Jewish environment. Yasha has denied his Jewish roots, but his perception that he is no longer in control of his complex, chaotic life, and some misfortunes bring him to repentance. He let's himself being walled in (like the hermits in ancient times) and ...more
Lorenzo Berardi
Jul 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Extremely enjoyable novel by Isaac Singer about the lecherous and then pious life of a secularist Jewish showman in early 20th century Poland.

As usual Singer is masterful in picturing the past. At this time even without being encyclopedic and perfectionist as he was in, say, "Shadows on the Hudson".
Albeit I use to like long novels full of details without any aspect or detail left, I have to say how at the moment I prefer something like "The Magician of Lublin". There is no single boring or out-

Yasha Mazur, magician, lover, free spirit in prewar Poland, "could never understand how other people managed to live in one place and spend their entire lives with one woman without becoming melancholy." He had a dutiful and loving Jewish wife in his hometown, but most of the year he traveled the country. A woman in every town, a young female assistant for his act, an industrious agent, all assure Yasha money, variety and freedom from melancholy.

He could open any lock, escape from any enclosure,
Tamsien West (Babbling Books)
A cautionary tale about the dangers of believing yourself to be beyond reproach. The Magician of Lublin is an interesting blend of timeless interactions across class divides and a time-capsule-esque setting of Jewish ‘shtetls’ in late 19th centuary Poland.

Yasha, the unlikeable, selfish, womanising, ‘hero’ of this tale is one of the most frustrating and vivid characters I have come across in a while. He practically leaps off the page with his self-importance and his completely contradictory love
Aug 29, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book could easily have been titled " The Reckoning ". Yasha is a talented magician of Polish Jewish descent, something of a local celebrity. He has a wonderful wife at home who runs her own business right out of the house. She is a seamstress who, along with her employees, creates fine wedding dresses for the nearby girls. She also takes care of all the plants and animals, and does her best to keep her restless husband healthy and happy. None of this is enough for Yasha who is a first class ...more
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everyone was like a lock, each with his own key. Only one such as he, Yasha, could unlock all souls.
Erez Davidi
Sep 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
"The Magician of Lublin" is a simple morality tale. Yasha is a magician who performs magic shows throughout Poland. He himself is a rationalist on the borderline of being an atheist. His wife, on the other hand, is a believing and practicing Jew who lives strictly according to Jewish law. Yasha is a serial adulterer who has a mistress in every city where his job as a magician takes him to.

The story starts when Yasha goes to Warsaw on a tour. This journey is a metaphor to the spiritual journey th
Yakov Bronsteyn
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Art is a matter of taste and style. This book just like any other is a work of art. This particular artwork wasn't to my taste.

To me it seems that the most of the story takes place in Yasha's head. We don't really get a feel for his talents as magician or the world he occupies until the end when he receives a letter from Emelia. That letter paints a picture of the type of person he is from a perspective other then his own.

His musings give a Shutter Island feel. The espousal of his particular p
Moshe Mikanovsky
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful book though morbid as the protagonist is not the most likeable person, especially in modern eyes. Singer again and again puts together the contradiction of tradition and modern life, belief and hereby, Jewish life in Poland of the 19th century and so much more. It’s the first Singer book I’ve read and will look for more.
Aug 22, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english
Well, that's the last time I pick up a book just because there's a monkey on the cover. ...more
michal k-c
not entirely related, but a little bit - Yasha, the protagonist, reminded me of the parsha in Exodus where the Jews recieve the Torah at Sinai. Verbs, as always, are incredibly important here, and it should be noted that in "accepting" the Torah, the Jews had our moral code thrust upon us (without consent). just something to think about ...more
Daniel Polansky
A drunken, licentious stage magician struggles with the age old question of whether or not to sleep with a Shiksha. Well written line to line but taken altogether its a little bit half-baked.
Arvind Radhakrishnan
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
A brilliant work. Easily a 4.5.
Jim Leffert
Jan 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Magician of Lublin reads well in translation from Yiddish and can be appreciated from several angles. We can see the story as representing, in the person of the eponymous Jewish magician, Yasha Mazur, the clash between traditional Jewish life in Lublin and the lure of the increasingly modern, cosmopolitan, and industrializing scene in 1880’s Warsaw. Singer dramatizes this conflict by depicting Yasha’s struggles as a restless magician with traditional Jewish roots and a faithful, observant wi ...more
Jul 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
In one of his shorter novels, Singer writes about Yasha, a Jewish magician (a modern day street performer/las vegas showman) in late 19th century Poland who juggles (pun intended) multiple women as well as questions of faith, morality, and mortality. As always, Singer writes in an engaging style (even with it being translated from the original Yiddish) and includes many unforeseen occurrences which reach a crescendo leading Yasha to seek his own form of penitence.

This book reads more like a fabl
Michael Haase
Jul 03, 2018 rated it liked it
A moral allegory, depicting the consequences of vice and the salvation of religious principle. The Magician of Lublin is a semi-humorous, though mostly tragic, tale of a modern, Polish Don Juan as he descends into immorality, but, unlike Don Juan, he saves himself through repentance and religious dedication. It's Isaac Singer's assertion of Judaism; its ability to unify and uplift. According to Singer, the world would be a better place if everyone upheld firmly to religious doctrines.

This religi
Mark Klempner
Jun 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
I didn't feel this was as successfully realized a novel as The Slave. But I do have to hand it to Singer: in an era in which his contemporaries were portraying sexually promiscuous male protagonists who pursue various "conquests" as heroes, Singer creates the same kind of character but shows him, in the end, to be morally bankrupts and depicts his eventual transformation into a spiritual seeker. Protagonists like this do not exist in the works of Philip Roth, John Updike, or Saul Bellow, as far ...more
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
I couldn't quite bring myself to give this book 3 stars, which to me is average. Many times I wanted to give up on this book, but somehow confirming my expectations of how Yasha would end up needed to be done. In saying that, none of the characters in this book appealed to me or felt likeable, especially of course Yasha. In some ways initially I identified with him, but I quickly realised that this was not the case.

Plot aside, the storyline felt disjointed at times with Yasha's introspective mo
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I don't know what I thought this was about. Well, I do know what I *thought* this was about, it's just that the book description is woefully inadequate.

This falls into the category of morality play, although set in the latter part of the 19th Century. I am not fond of morality plays, nor am I especially interested in reading about people who decide to give up their supposedly evil ways and turn to God. Should I rate this lower? It did keep me reading and it was not a total waste of time.
May 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Cant miss with anything he writes!
Steve mitchell
Dec 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Good story, I believe it is a statement about god and doing what is right, and something like karma, or everyone gets their justice sooner or later.
Jun 21, 2019 rated it liked it
*Spoiler alert*

This book focuses mainly on the marital and extramarital affairs of a semi-well known magician from a shtetl of 19th century Eastern Europe. Despite his many natural gifts and affinity for delving deeper into the world of performing tricks, he cannot - and moreso does not want to - contain his lusty antics which inevitably end up hurting those involved. I was disappointed when I got halfway through and realized that that most of this book would be about a stereotypically pompous m
Bob Newman
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Trickster Tumbles, Taps into Truth

But can we know what God wants us to do ? Isn't it a case of Man sewing throughout his lifetime the clothes that fit him ? We ask a million questions, however the answers lie only within. You have to do as you see fit. Some say the discipline of orthodox religion points out the road; every bird, every snowflake, every acorn lying on the grass is proof of God's existence. Others deny the whole thing and swear God never existed. Singer's tale of a religiously-laps
Geoff Wooldridge
The Magician of Lublin by Polish Author Isaac Bashevis Singer is a delightfully quaint novel, originally published in 1960. It was written in Yiddish and translated to English by Elaine Gottlieb and Joseph Singer.

The Magician of the title is Yasha Mazur, from Lublin in Poland, who travels around the country performing shows featuring magic tricks, juggling, acrobatics, performing animals and other entertainments.

Yasha is married to Esther, who loves him deeply, despite knowing that her husband i
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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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