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The Certificate Hardcover – November 1, 1992


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My Struggle: Book Four
Eighteen-year-old Karl Ove moves to a tiny fishing village in the Arctic Circle to work as a school teacher. As the nights get longer, the shadow cast by his father's own sharply increasing alcohol consumption, also gets longer. Read the full description
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (November 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374120293
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374120290
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,652,554 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A bittersweet posthumous finale to a distinguished career, this novel by the 1976 Nobel laureate returns one last time to the now-vanished universe of Polish Jewry between the world wars. Its narrator, David Bendiger, is a would-be writer, "at eighteen and a half . . . no longer a day student" but still a dreamer, "digging away at eternal questions" and trying to survive on his own in 1920s Warsaw. Offered the opportunity of a certificate that will permit him to emigrate to Palestine, he vacillates among three women--Sonya, a simple working girl; Edusha, a sexually active young Communist; and Minna, a daughter of the once-rich bourgeoisie--unable to decide whom he should choose. At the same time, he is pummeled by the movements that have shaped Jewish life in this century--communism, Zionism and the Jewish Enlightenment--while he tries to reconcile himself to the distance he has come from his Orthodox upbringing. Singer tells David's story with cool detachment, allowing the young man's mix of self-importance and self-doubt to give his narration a fine, ironic edge. As events swirl around David, plunging him into a whirlpool of lost loves and family tensions, he grows before our eyes, maturing into a wounded but wise adult, one who comes to realize the futility of his struggles. Although written early in the author's career, this novel languished untranslated until now. It proves to be vintage Singer, a welcome addition to his oeuvre.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"Singer is the most magical of writers, transforming reality into art with seemingly effortless sleight of hand. His deceptively spare prose has a pristine clarity that is stunning in its impact."
--The New York Times
 
"[Singer's] triumph here is much like Dostoyevsky's in his later years when he wrote A Raw Youth and tapped the mad feel of his teens.... Done with gusto and panache."
--Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
 
"Vintage Singer, a welcome addition to his oeuvre."
--Publishers Weekly
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Esther Nebenzahl on June 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
David Bendiger is a penniless young man, willing to make a name for himself as a writer in Warsaw. But 1922 is a time of turmoil, war, anti-Semitism, the rise of communism, all of which deeply affecting a young generation that cannot find its place in society. More so for the Jewish community, torn itself between tradition and the new rationalism. David is a puppet in a world of chaos, who gets himself carried and involved in the lives of three women, each one of them with their own dilemma in life. Like in all his other works, I.B.Singer masters his depiction of human despair, love, greatness, and despicable existence.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By IRA Ross on August 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
David Bendiger is at a crossroad in his life. He is 18-1/2 and like his brother, Ahron, he aspires to be a writer. David also has the opportunity to obtain a certificate of passage to Palestine, a British protectorate in 1922. The only catch is that if he had a wife entry into Palestine would be that much easier. David enters into a fictitious marriage with Minna, a woman from a well-to-do Jewish family living in Warsaw. Minna plans to reunite with her adored fiance in Palestine and then dissolve her union with David. Needless to say problems ensue.
_The Certificate_ is a splendid and engrossing story full of unexpected plot turns. It captures that moment in a young man's life when he is just becoming an adult and must make important decisions that will affect the rest of his life. In David's case he chooses to begin his writing career by endeavoring to have some of his writings published. Newly discovering women, he ponders about the kind of woman he will eventually marry. The son of an orthodox rabbi, David also faces a challenge to his Judaism and his belief in God when he meets two Communist women at a rooming house, as well as from Minna, a self-denying Jew. Even his beliefs and his value system, much of these derived from Spinoza, are shaken. Whether David finds a new life in Palestine or takes an altogether different road may be discovered by reading this small, but important and engrossing work in the I.B. Singer canon.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a highly autobiographical fiction, and one of tremendous verve, energy and life. An early work of Singer it was published after he won the Nobel Prize. It contains many of the familiar themes of his work, including that of a search on the part of the narrator to make some sense of, and understand his own life. The poor young man who is the subject of the story arrives in Warsaw from the provinces where he has been dismissed as a teacher. And in typical Singer fashion he finds his way to survival through a series of relationships with three different women. One of these women has a certificate which the Zionists have reserved for her and her husband so that she can travel to Palestine. But the man she loves is supposedly already there and she needs a fictive husband . Thus David Bendiger the Singer alter ego main character of the book , receives a lifeline. In the course of the narrative Bendinger and the pining Minna marry but this does not bring them to the Promised Land. Bendinger's other connections with two other women also do not solve his problem. Other surprises in the book like the return from Russia of the writer's older brother who is also a respected writer, and the sudden appearance in Warsaw at the end of the work at their aging Rabbi father also contribute to the book's interestingness.

Above all though it is the voice of the main character ironic and questioning, filled with dreams and wild imaginings, original in perceptions and questions which impels the story. Singer is a writer whose work lives line by line, and who can tell a story in a brief paragraph. As a narrator he just knows how to keep the reader curious, and his storytelling power is so strong it sweeps the reader along with it.
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