Leslie Epstein has been described as one of the world’s comic geniuses. Indeed, in this outrageous novel, as we travel along with 104-year-old Leib Goldkorn, in his third literary appearance, it proves true.
At the brink of death, Leib, as the oldest living Holocaust survivor, gets invited back to his home town, in the now Czech Republic. As their honorary Jew he is there for the Holocaust Memorial Festivity. The juxtaposition of these words sets the scene for the almost unbelievable journey. Balancing both humor and horror, the story teases even the most adventurous imaginations. It is hilarious in style, language, circumstance, and players, and yet there is the ever- present shadow of the brutality of the Holocaust as well as current, horrific acts of political violence.
Central to the plot is Leib’s discovery, while in his town of Jihlava, of his true father, Gustav Mahler. At the same time he miraculously comes upon the only opera Mahler ever wrote: Rubezahl. A learned musician himself, Leib is determined to translate and stage a production of this work at the Metropolitan Opera, starring, by the way, a cast of world famous singers, including one particular diva of renown and, of course, the rag-tag gang of long lost cousins he found in Europe. This old folktale, retold, is opera buffa in every musical sense, but, alas, the comedy turns to madness on the eve of the opening performance.
Leib Goldkorn is a celebration of life! Feisty, sexy, and resilient, he is a character to remember, as is the tale he shares with us.