Liebestod: Opera Buffa

By: Leslie Epstein

In this novel—as hilarious as it is heartbreaking—103-year-old Leib Goldkorn is invited back to his home town of Iglau, now called Jihlava, to be honored as its oldest living Holocaust survivor.  While there, Leib discovers many things, chief among them that his real father is the greatest composer of the twentieth century.  More family revelations remain, including a bevy of rabbinical cousins, eager to return with him to America, so that they might study the Torah in Williamsburg, New York, while he brings to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera the only opera, Rübezahl, that his true father ever wrote. Beneath the surface of these many adventures, another tale—of longing for the past and its music, together with a no less vital longing for beautiful women (one of whom Must Not be Named, the other of whom is the greatest star of the Met) slowly emerges.  Nothing in this story is quite what it seems and yet the entire tale—with its leitmotifs of culture and violence and eroticism—could not be more real nor more a part of the lives we find ourselves living now. As you enter the world of this novel, high-spirited, exuberant and sorrowful too, you will find that Leib, as the New York Times said of him in the past, “illuminates the mystery of our common humanity and mortality, our means of embracing neither arid intellect not the anarchic id, but music, the imagination of the heart.”

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