The Fragmented Life of Don Jacobo Lerner Summary

Isaac Goldemberg


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Fragmented Life of Don Jacobo Lerner, which begins on the night before Don Jacobo’s death, recounts the major events of his twelve years as a Russian Jew in Peru through objective narratives and through what might be called the testimony of those with whom his life was involved. The novel traces the steps toward the loss of a sense of self in two major characters: Jacobo Lerner himself and his illegitimate son, Efraín.

When Jacobo arrives in Peru, driven from Russia by a pogrom, he intends to marry a Jewish girl, produce a family, make money, and live to a respected old age in the considerable Jewish community. By chance, Jacobo hears that his old friend León Mitrani has settled in the village of Chepén. When Jacobo arrives in Chepén, however, he finds that Mitrani is neither rich nor happy. Married to a local woman, he is alienated both from her narrow Catholic world and from his ancestral faith. Although Jacobo settles in Chepén and becomes prosperous enough to be sought as a son-in-law by the father of Bertila Wilson, Mitrani’s misery haunts Jacobo. When Bertila becomes pregnant and Jacobo must decide whether to marry her and stay in Chepén, he flees.

Although there is an active Jewish community in Lima, Jacobo cannot find the Jewish girl he seeks. Nor do his fortunes improve. Swindled by his brother Moisés Lerner, Jacobo must take to the road as a peddler, moving in fear through the distant villages where he could...

(The entire section is 498 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

MacShane, Frank. Review of The Fragmented Life of Don Jacobo Lerner, by Isaac Goldemberg. The New York Times Book Review 76 (June 12, 1977): 15, 33. A prominent and perceptive review.

Ryan, Bryan, ed. Hispanic Writers: A Selection of Sketches from Contemporary Authors. Detroit: Gale Research, 1991. Entry on Goldemberg gives an overview of his life, writing, and critical reaction to his work.

Speck, Paula K. “Fragments of a Vanished World.” Americas (May/June, 1982): 63. An interesting discussion of Goldemberg’s writings.