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Joseph Skibell’s magical tale about the Holocaust—a fable inspired by fact—received unanimous nationwide acclaim when first published in 1997.

At the center of A Blessing on the Moon is Chaim Skibelski. Death is merely the beginning of Chaim’s troubles. In the opening pages, he is shot along with the other Jews of his small Polish village. But instead of resting peacefully in the World to Come, Chaim, for reasons unclear to him, is left to wander the earth, accompanied by his rabbi, who has taken the form of a talking crow. Chaim’s afterlife journey is filled with extraordinary encounters whose consequences are far greater than he realizes.

Not since art Spiegelman’s Maus has a work so powerfully evoked one of the darkest moments of the twentieth century with such daring originality.
Published: Workman eBooks on
ISBN: 9781616200275
List price: $13.95
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This unique, compelling tale of one man among the Holocaust's many Jewish dead is as fantastic as the thought that so many people could be murdered for so little reason. It opens at the end of Chaim Skibelski's life:"It all happened so quickly. They rounded us up, took us out to the forests. We stood there, shivering, like trees in uneven rows, and one by one we fell. No one was brave enough to turn and look."Chaimka is dead but his spirit returns to his village, where he finds his house taken over by a Polish family, whose tubercular daughter is the only living being who can see his presence. He takes care of her for what appears to be several years, until she dies and is instantaneously transported to her Heaven on a golden chariot.What of all the Jews, still lying in their mass grave in the forest? What of Chaim, who has had the guidance of his rabbi, now in the form of a crow, and who has shown kindness toward the dying girl and forebearance toward those who stole his property? Where is their World to Come?As Chaim's fantastical afterlife continues, he reunites with the other townspeople murdered by the Germans and they embark on a trek that ends at a bizarre hotel on the other side of a healing stream. This might have been a happy ending, but it is anything but, and the slaughtered Chaim resumes his wandering quest for the eternal resting place. "Am I really expected now to carry on," he asks his merciless God, "without even a death to ransom me?"Despite the grim setting, "A Blessing on the Moon" is full of humor, and even the comedy of brothers-in-law Kalman and Zalman, who are trying to remedy the strange fate of the moon, which vanished soon after that horrible day in the woods. On meeting Chaim, they begin to argue over who was married to which twin sister. "Zalman shrieks. 'It's you, Kalman' who has forgotten who doesn't remember!' 'One of us doesn't remember,' Kalman says kindly, making peace, 'but whic one it is, to tell you the thruth, we can no longer recall.'"Author Joseph Skibell dedicates the book to his great-grandparents, among them Chaim Skibelski, who one can hope had as rich an afterlife as the character who bears his name.more
Contrary to Chaim Skibelski's expectations, the World to Come has not, since his death in a Polish pogrom. Instead, he and his fellow killed Jews are stuck in an in-between not-life, uncertain where to go after everything has been taken from them. Their previous homes are occupied, their town has been obliterated, and the sweet simplicity of either a satisfying afterlife or an oblivious death are denied to them. So they wander through this liminal existence, without clear direction or anyone who seems to know what's going on or who's in charge.The book became more poignant for me after reading the post-script material: Joseph Skibell wrote this as a sort of memoir for his grandparents, and Chaim Skibelski was a real individual with his real family. Yet the fictionality and the magical realism that generally embody the novel displace it from real pogroms or the actual events of the Holocaust. In this way, victims of the Holocaust are displaced from only 'victim' status, and allowed to stand as actual characters and people. The narrative hangs on the question of post-Holocaust Jewish identity: "What now?" Yet it's not an answer that reforms the broken group - certainly God doesn't show up to hand out explanations - but the ongoing struggle against the question itself. It's an unusual and valuable work of Jewish literature that can engage with the Holocaust so much while actually depicting it so minimally.more

Reviews

This unique, compelling tale of one man among the Holocaust's many Jewish dead is as fantastic as the thought that so many people could be murdered for so little reason. It opens at the end of Chaim Skibelski's life:"It all happened so quickly. They rounded us up, took us out to the forests. We stood there, shivering, like trees in uneven rows, and one by one we fell. No one was brave enough to turn and look."Chaimka is dead but his spirit returns to his village, where he finds his house taken over by a Polish family, whose tubercular daughter is the only living being who can see his presence. He takes care of her for what appears to be several years, until she dies and is instantaneously transported to her Heaven on a golden chariot.What of all the Jews, still lying in their mass grave in the forest? What of Chaim, who has had the guidance of his rabbi, now in the form of a crow, and who has shown kindness toward the dying girl and forebearance toward those who stole his property? Where is their World to Come?As Chaim's fantastical afterlife continues, he reunites with the other townspeople murdered by the Germans and they embark on a trek that ends at a bizarre hotel on the other side of a healing stream. This might have been a happy ending, but it is anything but, and the slaughtered Chaim resumes his wandering quest for the eternal resting place. "Am I really expected now to carry on," he asks his merciless God, "without even a death to ransom me?"Despite the grim setting, "A Blessing on the Moon" is full of humor, and even the comedy of brothers-in-law Kalman and Zalman, who are trying to remedy the strange fate of the moon, which vanished soon after that horrible day in the woods. On meeting Chaim, they begin to argue over who was married to which twin sister. "Zalman shrieks. 'It's you, Kalman' who has forgotten who doesn't remember!' 'One of us doesn't remember,' Kalman says kindly, making peace, 'but whic one it is, to tell you the thruth, we can no longer recall.'"Author Joseph Skibell dedicates the book to his great-grandparents, among them Chaim Skibelski, who one can hope had as rich an afterlife as the character who bears his name.more
Contrary to Chaim Skibelski's expectations, the World to Come has not, since his death in a Polish pogrom. Instead, he and his fellow killed Jews are stuck in an in-between not-life, uncertain where to go after everything has been taken from them. Their previous homes are occupied, their town has been obliterated, and the sweet simplicity of either a satisfying afterlife or an oblivious death are denied to them. So they wander through this liminal existence, without clear direction or anyone who seems to know what's going on or who's in charge.The book became more poignant for me after reading the post-script material: Joseph Skibell wrote this as a sort of memoir for his grandparents, and Chaim Skibelski was a real individual with his real family. Yet the fictionality and the magical realism that generally embody the novel displace it from real pogroms or the actual events of the Holocaust. In this way, victims of the Holocaust are displaced from only 'victim' status, and allowed to stand as actual characters and people. The narrative hangs on the question of post-Holocaust Jewish identity: "What now?" Yet it's not an answer that reforms the broken group - certainly God doesn't show up to hand out explanations - but the ongoing struggle against the question itself. It's an unusual and valuable work of Jewish literature that can engage with the Holocaust so much while actually depicting it so minimally.more
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