Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

This novel can be seen in the context of South American literature. Like Gabriel García Márquez, Goldemberg is interested in the stifling effects of life in a small village where nothing has changed for centuries. The novel should also be seen in the context of Jewish literature, which points out the fear engendered by centuries of persecution and the sense of separateness which persists even after the faith which was its reason has dwindled or disappeared.

Obviously, Jacobo is a modern version of the legendary Wandering Jew. Yet he becomes a metaphor for modern man, sentenced to spiritual homelessness for no sin that he can identify. If man wishes to avoid this disease, he must merge into one community or another, whether the little Catholic community of Chepén or the thriving Jewish community of Lima. Perhaps those who can do so are fortunate. Yet those who, like Jacobo, recognize the fact that all is not well, who seek a principle by which to organize their lives but who cannot find it are the contemporary wanderers, regardless of their religious background. In his exploration of universal truths which extend far beyond the limited society of which he writes, Goldemberg has displayed the gifts of a considerable writer.